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The Cottage at Glass Beach: A Novel Hardcover – May 15, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Nora Cunningham brings her daughters to Burke’s Island in New England to escape the scandal surrounding her politician husband’s affair. Her aunt Maire is thrilled, but not all of the residents are so welcoming. The silence surrounding the long-ago disappearance of Maeve, Nora’s mother, not to mention the sudden appearance of a shipwrecked man with no memory, is a dark current propelling the story forward. Ella, Nora’s 12-year-old, misses her father fiercely, but 7-year-old Annie is drawn to the sea and, especially, a strange young boy named Ronan. The writing elevates this story above the usual wronged-mother-finds-herself story, and the harsh and, in the right hands, productive island is a character in itself. Readers who require strict realism may be turned off by the touch of the paranormal, but Barbieri does such a wonderful job setting up the beauty and mystery of the island and its rich Gaelic roots that it is not a stretch to ask the reader to imagine that the place is also magical. A wonderful, subtle, transporting story. For readers who enjoyed Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells (2007) and Brunonia Barry’s The Lace Reader (2008). --Susan Maguire


“Where Barbieri shines is in her depiction of the microcosm of the island and in the strong links between the generations. Nora discover that ‘Everything is connected. The geography of the island, of the soul,’ and Barbieri makes that connection real.” (Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Times)

“A must read for fans of Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells.” (Tara Quinn, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“Barbieri’s mix of fairy tale and family drama in a picturesque seaside resort makes her third novel a terrific beach read.” (Library Journal)

“Part seaside fairytale, part exploration of real-world tensions....Let yourself be transported to Burke’s Island, a salt-tinged place steeped in legends of selkies and shipwrecks, but also full of bruised and hopeful people making their wayward, human ways toward happiness.” (Marisa de los Santos, author of Falling Together and Belong to Me)

“Heather Barbieri’s The Cottage at Glass Beach is a moving, heartfelt story told with vivid description. Open the book and listen—you’ll hear the waves crashing onto the shore.” (Sarah Jio, author of The Bungalow and The Violets of March)

“Strikes the perfect balance between high lit and mainstream women’s fiction, infusing a potent and unforgettable love story with unforgettable characters that will remain with you long after the final chapter....[Barbieri’s narrative] will call out to readers of Joanne Harris, Alice Hoffman, and other modern masters of drama.” (

“The Cottage at Glass Beach, an enchanting novel about mothers and daughters on an isolated island, is a romantic, delicious read. Barbieri’s beautiful writing and beguiling world view revel in the realities and the mysteries of the sea and of life itself.” (Nancy Thayer, New York Times bestselling author of Heat Wave)

“Barbieri does such a wonderful job setting up the beauty and mystery of the island and its rich Gaelic roots that it is not a stretch to ask the reader to imagine that the place is also magical. A wonderful, subtle, transporting story.” (Susan Maguire, Booklist, starred review)

“In the enchanting world of Maine’s Burke’s Island, fanciful stories - of captured selkies becoming dutiful wives and tears cried in the sea beckoning lovers to shore - are gracefully woven into modern reality.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Threads of magical realism throughout the book are quite appealing, and the seaside setting is enchanting.” (Melissa Parcel, Romantic Times Book Review)

“Barbieri’s deft writing style is charmingly wry yet evocative, with details and descriptions both telling and vivid. . . . . A sweet summertime yarn [that] . . . provides a lovely, leisurely escape to the bucolic charms of the Emerald Isle.” (Karen Campbell, Boston Globe on The Lace Makers of Glenmara)

“The Lace Makers of Glenmara is richly peopled and beguilingly charming but what ultimately makes it so moving is Heather Barbieri’s deep understanding that no life is immune from sorrow and difficulty. I read this wonderful novel with enormous pleasure.” (Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street on The Lace Makers of Glenmara)

“Ms. Barbieri’s writerly sense of whimsy and retrospection implies that anyone can work through adversity to happiness - if only the volition is present.” (Nancy Carty Lepri, New York Journal of Books)

The Lace Makers of Glenmara is a charming, moving story, written with a delicate touch.” (Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and The Girl with No Shadow, on The Lace Makers of Glenmara)

“Reminiscent of Maeve Binchy’s stories of romance and family in tight-knit Irish communities, The Cottage at Glass Beach is full of warmth and sympathy.” (Katie Schneider, The Oregonian)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (May 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062107968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062107961
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,399,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

In the end, it just made her character seem too ambivalent.
This is to be expected, however, the problem was that she was never corrected, she was allowed to think the wrong thing and to place blame on her mother.
Heather BookSavvyBabe
While I didn't think this book was hard to read, the story just didn't feel finished to me by the end of the book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By E. B. MULLIGAN VINE VOICE on April 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For me the best part of The Cottage at Glass Beach was it flashed me right back to summers at the Connecticut shore with my young parents and my two little sisters. The author does a wonderful job of putting you right on the beach and right at the dinner table where everything tastes better after a long day in the sun (followed by a cool refreshing bath or shower). It was perfect for this spring day resting on the couch after a long week in the office.

College Sweethearts Nora and Malcolm have been together for 15 years, two children later Nora is devastated when Malcolm has an affair. By the end of the book Malcolm is such a jerk I can't see that he and Nora ever had emotional intimacy. Seven year-old Annie is aamazingly mature by the end of the book, while twelve year-old Ella remain a wretchedly unlikeable Daddy's girl who appears never to have bonded with her mother.

Nora's Aunt Maire McGann lives on remote Burke's Island, Maine (small yet thriving) where Nora was born. Her father took her off-island when Nora's mother, Maeve, disappeared (presumed dead) when Nora was five years old (found walking the beach - with her mom nowhere to be found). Nora had not returned to the Island since then, her father had prevented Maire from contacting Nora, her Aunt reaches out again out to offer refuge and Nora leaves Boston with her daughters to take stock and find a new direction.

The writing is lovely; it's the story that was a bit off. It just didn't seem complete, what was Owen, a fisherman who washes in with the tide (literally a gift from the sea) all about? The last two chapters just didn't do it for me, I guess the first third was so good I was expecting the rest to do even better.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Heather Barbieri writes a tale that is both familiar and modern and also a fantasy.
Nora is the mother of 2 young girls, Ella -12 and Annie- 6. She also is the wife of a philandering state attorney general and returns to her original island home after being harassed by the press. She reunites with her aunt and here the tale begins its mystery. What happened to Nora's mother and what will happen with Nora's life? One daughter is filled with anger and the other is becoming quietly aware of the mysteries of the island.
The writing draws a reader into Nora's life and the people of the island, her aunt and the mysterious fisherman washed up on their beach.

My one advice for anyone reading a story, would be, that to enjoy it to the fullest, one should have at least some familiarity with the background of the surroundings or the people. The main characters are well described in this book and we feel we know them, but one part is missing.

....Warning....for some this might be considered a plot spoiler....the story... the myth that is intertwined in this tale is that of the selkie. Seals that can shed their skin to become human on land. One of the most touching renditions of this legend is Gordon Bok's "Peter Kagan and the Wind". If you know this legend or read its lyrics, you will have a better idea of this fantasy that some believe in. A reader will have to decide what the truth in `The Cottage at Glass Beach `is. It can be an interesting journey, but a more haunting one, if perhaps this legend was introduced in a prelude in the book. It just seems, that if you do not know this legend, parts of the book would be either confusing or just overlooked in their implications - although we can never know what is truth and what might be fantasy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Heather BookSavvyBabe on June 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Fairy tales meet reality in Heather Barbieri's novel, The Cottage at Glass Beach.

In The Cottage at Glass Beach, with a hazy past and an uncertain future, Nora is a woman facing major life changes. Her husband has been aught cheating and Nora has retreated to the small island home of her late mother. With two daughters in tow, Nora must figure out how to move forward with her life and gain clarity for her life. With the help of her aunt and a mysterious shipwrecked man, Nora begins to find peace.

There are definite highs and lows to The Cottage at Glass Beach. It was easy to sympathize with all the characters. Nora's husband is a selfish, clueless man who moved on from Nora, his "starter" wife. Nora is crushed, confused, and at a loss at where to go from there. I really like Nora's character, she is a wonderful mother, dedicated to her girls. However, somewhere along the way, she lost her sense of self. She became a politician's wife and the more engrossed she became in being a wife and mother, the farther away from her true self she became. When she returns to the cottage where she lived with her mother, her childhood memories and her past remind her of what she loves, the sea, art, and a peaceful life. Nora's daughters each have their own quirks and emotions. The older daughter is confused and places blame in the wrong places. The younger daughter is constantly searching for the silver lining and for adventure. The realities of this families situation were quite believable and worked for the story.

Heather Barbieri created a beautiful setting, a small island town filled with caring people and magic in the air. I loved the setting and envisioning the beach was easy to do. The magic and mythology hinted at through the story was quite intriguing.
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