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Friday, December 14, 2018

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The Orphan of Salt Winds / Elizabeth Brooks


Elizabeth Brooks 
Tin House Books  
Jan. 15, 2019
300 pages 
ISBN 978-1947793224

When the orphan Virginia Wrathmell is brought to Salt Winds, an epic old home by the marsh in Tollbury, she is introduced to her adoptive parents Lorna and Clem. They live in the shadow of secrets and tension that leaves Virginia on guard and always watching. The first lesson she learns quickly is that the tidal marsh just on the other side of the stone wall is a dangerous place. As the young girl lives among her new family, she realizes that secrets abound in the whispers and awkward glances. Max Deering, a wealthy neighbor and longtime friend of Clem comes to visit, it is clear that their relationship as friends has darker, unspoken connections to the past. Clem in Virginia's true spirit - he is calm, forgiving, and allows Virginia to understand his connections to birds, the marsh, and his murky past. As Virginia begins to understand her life in this grand old house, a German fighter falls into the marsh. It begins a chain of events that will shape the rest of Virginia's days. 

This is an elegant and lyrical debut novel. While this is a stunning coming of age novel, it is also based on the history and the vision of a life lived in a complicated and visionary life. Mixed with natural and humanistic figurative language, Brooks captures the natural essence of the setting, the time, and the timeless vision of the choices the characters make. In terms of form, there are some beautiful turns in this story that are designed in an elegant and meticulous way. It is clear the author spent time refining the elements of this novel to create a pitch-perfect timeless novel based in the expanse of history. It is a novel that haunts the reader. Like Howard's End by E. M. Forster, this novel is about the place where the setting and the world around the characters breath a vitality to the story. Such a tender and compelling story about history, family, love, and loss all captured in this stunning debut novel.