Winter Haven by Athol Dickson
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Challenge: A-Z (title)
Summary/Review: I was really not enjoying this book until I got to the very end, which almost made up for the turgidness of the prose. The last chapter saved the book from getting an even lower rating.
This is a story of Vera, a young woman (much younger than she acts) who sets off to pick up the body of her brother who has washed up on the shore of a small Maine island. How we got there, and why he doesn't appear to have aged in 13 years, are the "mystery" of the book. The answer, when it is finally revealed, is fairly straightforward, and not unsatisfying.
In the course of finding that out, though, Vera must deal with her own guilt over not stopping her brother from running away, and her belief that her "visions" of what happened to her brother are actually punishments from God. She must also deal with unkind islanders, a "ghost", and a too-handsome man (with a wandering eye) who might be friend or might be foe.
One might suppose that all of those factors would combine to make a compelling story. Alas, that is not the case. Dickson gets too bogged down in his first-person narration to let the story run naturally. We are teased with hints and glimpses of what's really going on, but Vera's overdrawn naivete prevents us from finding anything in the story that will allow us to be drawn in.