(Review) The Unquiet Grave

the unquiet grave

Publisher and Publication Date: Atria Books. September 12, 2017.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 368.
Source: Library.
Rating: Very Good.


The Unquiet Grave is three key people who share the same history. The setting is West Virginia. The two years of history are 1897 and 1930.
In 1897, a head-strong young woman named Zona Hester marries a blacksmith. Never mind he has been married before and those marriages ended strangely. Zona wants to marry a handsome man who will shower her with love. Mary Jane is Zona’s mother. Mary Jane is suspicious by nature. She and her husband have fretted over Zona’s behavior for years. They love their willful and defiant daughter, but never knew how to best manage Zona. After Zona marries, Mary Jane hears Zona has died. Mary Jane believes her son-in-law killed Zona. She tells the county prosecutor that the ghost of Zona visited her and told her she’d been murdered. The third key character of the book is the defense attorney, a black man named James P. D. Gardner. When he begins telling his story the year is 1930.

No, I did not plan to read two ghost stories in a row.

My Thoughts:
I like this story more than the previous story read: Grief Cottage.
Several points led me to give The Unquiet Grave a very good rating.
• The story of a black attorney at the turn of the twentieth century appealed to me. He had perseverance and fortitude to attend higher education to become an attorney in an age when blacks were severely oppressed.
• Mary Jane is a woman and mother with tenacity. She does not let things go. When she believes in something she finds a way to make “it” happen. She is a keen problem solver. She has had a life time to solve the after affects of Zona’s behavior. Mary Jane’s husband is meek. Mary Jane is the opposite.
• Zona is a mess. She leaves a wake of large waves behind her. After she marries, the household of her childhood home is quiet. After marriage, the spark of her personality is gone. She is a waif of her former self.
The Unquiet Grave is a descriptive story. Whether it is the scenery or a character’s face.
• I love the background for the writing of this story. It is a mix of folklore, based on the Greenbrier Ghost.


(Review) Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin

grief cottage

Publisher and Publication Date: Bloomsbury. June 6, 2017.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 336.
Source: Library.
Rating: Good.


Marcus Harshaw, after the death of his mother, moves in with his Aunt Charlotte. She has a small house on an island off the coast of South Carolina. Aunt Charlotte is a painter. She is a loner. Marcus is 11 years old. At the beginning of the story, the first sentence of chapter two:

Whenever I try to crawl back into the skin of that boy Aunt Charlotte suddenly found invading her precious solitude, a boy who was neither a charming child nor a promising young man, I am surprised that after living alone by choice for so long she was able to tolerate my company as well as she did. Page 6.

Marcus is telling us his story as an adult, he is reflecting back on this period in life. He is the narrator. —-Don’t forget this point as I will refer to it in the “My Thoughts” section.
It is early summer when Marcus begins living with Aunt Charlotte. She is kind to him but with an awkwardness. She never had children, and he has never met her before, he has only “heard” stories about the reclusive Aunt Charlotte.
Aunt Charlotte tells Marcus about a battered old cottage “at the south end of the beach.” It has been nicknamed “grief cottage.” Aunt Charlotte has painted this cottage several times. She encourages Marcus to go have a look.
Marcus’s visits to the cottage become his primary focus; and he meets a ghostly friend who may or may not be a good influence.

My Thoughts:
One of the points I do not like about the book is whether Marcus is telling us his story from the perspective of an 11 year old or from the perspective of an adult? If the perspective is age 11, Marcus is an old soul, very old soul. He is not the typical boy of 11. He spends a great deal of time thinking (obsessing) about people. People from his past or present. He is also a loner. He does not mention sadness, but his actions show sadness, anger, and a mental instability. He does not seek out kids his own age to hang around. He often thinks of the one friend he had and their violent ending. This point about the perspective leads me to believe this is not a believable story. I feel this is fiction a bit too far.

A second point about the story is whether the ghost is really a ghost or is this a fixation for Marcus? Marcus is grieving the death of his mother. He has no other family but Aunt Charlotte. He has lived a difficult life. Is this a ghost or is it all in Marcus’s mind?

Marcus has a history of violence. This is apart of the story but not in a way that helps him, it is another aspect of who he is.

The story is slow. It has few characters. The spotlight holds bright on Marcus.

What kept me reading till the end is I felt sorry for Marcus. I wanted to know what became of this strange and sad boy.