One of the really cool things about my weekend away was that I had a lot of time to read. I finished one book (Winter Haven) and started and finished two more: How to Be Good by Nick Hornby (review coming soon) and Songs of Innocence and Experience (related post here.)
When I started Athol Dickson’s Winter Haven, I was a little worried that I wasn’t going to love it as much as I did The Cure and River Rising. Isn’t that always a concern when you’re reading an author you love? That you might be disappointed? Well, I wasn’t.
Winter Haven is the story of Vera Gamble. Single and in her 20s, Vera is working in Texas when she receives a phone call that will change her life. The sheriff of the town Winter Haven, Maine – a small island off the coast – is calling to tell her that her brother’s body has washed up on shore. Siggy, an autistic teenager, had disappeared 13 years previously, and had never been found or heard from again. The fact that he has been found after all these years is only Vera’s first surprise.
When Vera arrives in Winter Haven to identify her brother, she discovers that he has not aged a day since the last time she saw him – thirteen years ago. And that’s only the first mystery. The island’s inhabitants are less than receptive to Vera’s attempts to look into her brother’s death, and she stumbles onto some of the island’s secrets: a lost colony of Pilgrims, a lost band of Vikings, a witch, and a ceremonial stone circle at the heart of the island. And the visions that Vera herself is experiencing: are they a sign from God, or from…somewhere else?
I don’t want to give a thing away, but I will say I loved this book. Reading Athol Dickson reminds me of watching a movie made by M. Night Shyalaman (Signs, The Sixth Sense, The Village). Just when you think you have a handle on where the plot is going, you’re thrown for a loop and you’re left guessing again. The other thing I love about Dickson’s writing is his sense of setting. Whether it is the deep south like River Rising, or the coast of Maine, like in this book, Dickson puts you right into the setting. His descriptions allow you to experience the book as if you are really there.
4 out of 5 stars – only because this book took a little longer to grab me than The Cure or River Rising.