Tag Archives | Heather Barbieri

Summer Reading Roundup

Summer is synoymous with F-U-N to me. Which means the books I want in my beach or pool bag must be fun. Maybe delving into deep issues, maybe not. Maybe written by old favorites or maybe by a new, promising talent. Maybe set at the beach, or maybe on the steamy streets of a city I’ve always wanted to visit. Whatever they’re about, whoever they’re by, they need to transport me just the same as if I’d gone on an actual vacation. Below are some books that fit that bill:

The Unfinished Work Of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier. How well do we know our friends? Even our best friends? And what if we lost our best friend, only to discover she kept detailed journals all her life– journals that reveal secrets about her? Would our view of her stay the same? And how would we make peace with the woman we knew and the woman we didn’t? This book answers those questions in a fun summer setting.

Summer vacation on Great Rock Island was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a sudden accident. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth’s journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother Kate thought she knew.

The complicated portrait of Elizabeth—her troubled upbringing, and her route to marriage and motherhood—makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a period of uncertainty in her own marriage.

The more Kate reads, the more she learns the complicated truth of who Elizabeth really was, and rethinks her own choices as a wife, mother, and professional, and the legacy she herself would want to leave behind. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in the pages, Kate realizes the extent of what she didn’t know about her friend, including where she was really going on the day she died.

Set in the anxious summer after the September 11th attacks, this story of two women—their friendship, their marriages, private ambitions and fears—considers the aspects of ourselves we show and those we conceal, and the repercussions of our choices.

The Cottage At Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri. A man who may or may not be a selkie? This book and the mystery surrounding it totally tapped into my love of mermaids and all things mysterious about the sea. Add some ruminating on marriage and motherhood and you’ve got a fine literary experience to mix with the sea air and salt water.

Married to the youngest attorney general in Massachusetts state history, Nora Cunningham is a picture-perfect political wife and a doting mother. But her carefully constructed life falls to pieces when she, along with the rest of the world, learns of the infidelity of her husband, Malcolm.

Humiliated and hounded by the press, Nora packs up her daughters—Annie, seven; and Ella, twelve—and takes refuge on Burke’s Island, a craggy spit of land off the coast of Maine. Settled by Irish immigrants, the island is a place where superstition and magic are carried on the ocean winds, and wishes and dreams wash ashore with the changing tides.

Nora spent her first five years on the island but has not been back to the remote community for decades—not since that long ago summer when her mother disappeared at sea. One night while sitting alone on Glass Beach below the cottage where she spent her childhood, Nora succumbs to grief, her tears flowing into the ocean. Days later she finds an enigmatic fisherman named Owen Kavanagh shipwrecked on the rocks nearby. Is he, as her aunt’s friend Polly suggests, a selkie—a mythical being of island legend—summoned by her heartbreak, or simply someone who, like Nora, is trying to find his way in the wake of his own personal struggles?

Just as she begins to regain her balance, her daughters embark on a reckless odyssey of their own—a journey that will force Nora to find the courage to chart her own course and finally face the truth about her marriage, her mother, and her long-buried past.

Monarch Beach by Anita Hughes. This one went in my pool bag as soon as it arrived. It was delicious!

Anita Hughes’ Monarch Beach is an absorbing debut novel about one woman’s journey back to happiness after an affair splinters her perfect marriage and life—what it means to be loved, betrayed and to love again.

When Amanda Blick, a young mother and kindhearted San Francisco heiress, finds her gorgeous French chef husband wrapped around his sous-chef, she knows she must flee her life in order to rebuild it. The opportunity falls into her lap when her (very lovable) mother suggests Amanda and her young son, Max, spend the summer with her at the St. Regis Resort in Laguna Beach. With the waves right outside her windows and nothing more to worry about than finding the next relaxing thing to do, Amanda should be having the time of her life—and escaping the drama. But instead, she finds herself faced with a kind, older divorcee who showers her with attention… and she discovers that the road to healing is never simple. This is the sometimes funny, sometimes bitter, but always moving story about the mistakes and discoveries a woman makes when her perfect world is turned upside down.

The Garden Of Happy Endings by Barbara O’Neal. A woman in a crisis of faith. A community garden that draws people together. A relationship between sisters that features all the nuances of complications you might expect. For those who aren’t into all the beachy kind of books, this one offers a nice alternative– especially if you have a green thumb, or, like me, just wish you had one.

After tragedy shatters her small community in Seattle, the Reverend Elsa Montgomery has a crisis of faith. Returning to her hometown of Pueblo, Colorado, she seeks work in a local soup kitchen. Preparing nourishing meals for folks in need, she keeps her hands busy while her heart searches for understanding.

Meanwhile, her sister, Tamsin, as pretty and colorful as Elsa is unadorned and steadfast, finds her perfect life shattered when she learns that her financier husband is a criminal. Enduring shock and humiliation as her beautiful house and possessions are seized, the woman who had everything now has nothing but the clothes on her back.

But when the going gets tough, the tough get growing. A community garden in the poorest, roughest part of town becomes a lifeline. Creating a place of hope and sustenance opens Elsa and Tamsin to the renewing power of rich earth, sunshine, and the warm cleansing rain of tears. While Elsa finds her heart blooming in the care of a rugged landscaper, Tamsin discovers the joy of losing herself in the act of giving—and both women discover that with time and care, happy endings flourish.

So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore. I read her book The Arrivals last summer poolside. If you didn’t read that one, it’s out in paperback this summer and worth picking up. I’m looking forward to this one and believe Meg Mitchell Moore to be a true talent. This premise appeals to me perhaps even more than The Arrivals!

Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher is trying to escape: from her parents’ ugly divorce, and from the vicious cyber-bullying of her former best friend. Adrift, confused, she is a girl trying to find her way in a world that seems to either neglect or despise her. Her salvation arrives in an unlikely form: Bridget O’Connell, an Irish maid working for a wealthy Boston family. The catch? Bridget lives only in the pages of a dusty old 1920s diary Natalie unearthed in her mother’s basement. But the life she describes is as troubling – and mysterious – as the one Natalie is trying to navigate herself, almost a century later.

I am writing this down because this is my story. There were only ever two people who knew my secret, and both are gone before me.

Who was Bridget, and what became of her?  

Natalie escapes into the diary, eager to unlock its secrets, and reluctantly accepts the help of library archivist Kathleen Lynch, a widow with her own painful secret: she’s estranged from her only daughter. Kathleen sees in Natalie traces of the daughter she has lost, and in Bridget, another spirited young woman at risk.

What could an Irish immigrant domestic servant from the 1920s teach them both? As the troubles of a very modern world close in around them, and Natalie’s torments at school escalate, the faded pages of Bridget’s journal unite the lonely girl and the unhappy widow – and might even change their lives forever.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links. ” This means if you click on the link and purchase the book, She Reads will receive a very small commission. These commissions help us pay for the site and the services we offer.  

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Literary First Love – Heather Barbieri

Heather Barbieri

As an only child in the mid to late 60s (my younger sisters weren’t born until 6 and 8 years later), I spent rainy days (and there were many in the Pacific Northwest) engrossed in books from my mother’s extensive library. Books held an important position in the household in a large floor-to-ceiling bookcase in the living room. A full set of Time Life history books transported me to Ancient Greece and Rome. A Popular Science series introduced me to the wonders of chemistry and astronomy. But my favorites were novels, some of them quite old, with tooled leather covers and gilt titles.

Mine was a childhood of creative freedom. Children of that era roamed the neighborhood at will, climbing the tallest trees, tearing down the highest hills, with little parental interference. I spent most days outside with friends, engaged in adventures large and small. But nights were made for reading. I’d stay up into the wee hours, reading by flashlight or the bedside lamp, careful to avoid detection. Books such as A Wrinkle in Time with the chilling character of It, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase with its English gothic splendor held great appeal, and richly-illustrated collections of fairytales and nursery rhymes. My mother gave me books every Christmas and birthday from the time I was very small. She had excellent taste. I also eagerly awaited visits to our local library, a fascinatingly ramshackle Carnegie-designed affair with a warren of sloped floors and shelves that offered a wealth of new literary discoveries. Life was an adventure. Reading too.

I found what would become one of my favorite books at my elementary school library. It was an older novel with a plain blue fabric cover—no flashy paper jacket the newest books possessed. Jessamy, by Barbara Sleigh, it said, as if introducing itself to me. I checked it out from the librarian, a tall woman with a black beehive hairdo, an artful streak of silver extending to the very top. She looked down her glasses at me and I was sure she was going to make some admonishment, as she was wont to do. “Good choice, ” she said, and pushed it across the desk and into my hands. That night, I fell in love with the beautifully-written story of a lonely girl who comes to have a greater understanding of herself and the world around her by traveling back in time to 1914, and slipping into the life of another girl, another Jessamy, who lived then. I finished it in a single sitting, but didn’t return it until the due date, when I had to let it go at last. Jessamy wasn’t mine after all, but the story lingered in my mind long after I closed the cover.

I went on to read scores of books, an avid reader to this day. I forgot about Jessamy until I had children of my own, and we were talking about our favorite books one evening. It was then that I remembered Jessamy then set out to find a copy of my own. It had long been out of print, and editions were scarce (and expensive—it had become a collector’s item; I wasn’t the only child who had fallen under its spell), but I eventually found one that wasn’t too dear. When I opened the package, I traveled back in time just as the main character had, becoming a younger version of myself, the child who loved to read so much that she eventually became a writer herself.

THE COTTAGE AT GLASS BEACH is Heather’s third novel. It releases tomorrow from Harper Collins.

Married to the youngest attorney general in Massachusetts state history, Nora Cunningham is a picture-perfect political wife and a doting mother. But her carefully constructed life falls to pieces when she, along with the rest of the world, learns of the infidelity of her husband, Malcolm. Humiliated and hounded by the press, Nora packs up her daughters—Annie, seven; and Ella, twelve—and takes refuge on Burke’s Island, off the coast of Maine. Nora hasn’t been back to the remote, Irish-American community for decades— not since that long ago summer when her mother disappeared at sea. Just as she begins to regain her balance, her daughters embark on a reckless odyssey of their own—a journey that will force Nora to find the courage to chart her own course and finally face the truth about her marriage, her mother, and her long-buried past.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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