My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Goodreads: The New York Times bestselling author of Serena returns to Appalachia, this time at the height of World War I, with the story of a blazing but doomed love affair caught in the turmoil of a nation at war
Deep in the rugged Appalachians of North Carolina lies the cove, a dark, forbidding place where spirits and fetches wander, and even the light fears to travel. Or so the townsfolk of Mars Hill believe–just as they know that Laurel Shelton, the lonely young woman who lives within its shadows, is a witch. Alone except for her brother, Hank, newly returned from the trenches of France, she aches for her life to begin.
Then it happens–a stranger appears, carrying nothing but a beautiful silver flute and a note explaining that his name is Walter, he is mute, and is bound for New York. Laurel finds him in the woods, nearly stung to death by yellow jackets, and nurses him back to health. As the days pass, Walter slips easily into life in the cove and into Laurel's heart, bringing her the only real happiness she has ever known.
But Walter harbors a secret that could destroy everything–and danger is closer than they know. Though the war in Europe is near its end, patriotic fervor flourishes thanks to the likes of Chauncey Feith, an ambitious young army recruiter who stokes fear and outrage throughout the county. In a time of uncertainty, when fear and ignorance reign, Laurel and Walter will discover that love may not be enough to protect them.
This lyrical, heart-rending tale, as mesmerizing as its award-winning predecessor Serena, shows once again this masterful novelist at the height of his powers.
My thoughts: Wow. It's the prose, really. It's lyrical and dark then some light shines through.
There are really three points of view in this story. Laurel is a lonely woman living a sad existence in the cursed cove where both her mother and father died and Laurel herself was pronounced a witch due to a port wine stain on shoulder. When she enters town, people cross the street so as not to meet her. She is treated with fear and disdain. Her prospects of happiness are slim. While her brother, who was conscripted into the Great War, was away, she nursed her father until his death then rejoiced when her brother, Hank returned sans one hand. But then the stranger appears. Although apparently mute, he offers Laurel another option than dying unhappy and in the cursed cove.
Walter is the apparent mute. Little is known about him in the beginning besides the fact that he has escaped some kind of imprisonment and taken shelter in the cove. He is a gifted flutist and his music speaks for him. Of course, he has the secrets that are the game changers. The reader can guess what the secrets may be.
Lastly, we have Chauncey. We all know Chauncey. He is the boy nobody liked because of his lack of social graces yet his father is connected. Chauncey still feels victimized and now wants to make others pay. He is an officer in the United States Army. He pushes everybody for patriotism and joining voluntarily. In his own mind, he is heroic. Given, he's never been to battle. He fights for what's right in the small town he is in. He is self-important and hated by most.
It is not a fast paced novel yet I could not put the book down. The writing is beautiful, the story intriguing and metaphorical. Perfect book club book.
*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.