Spotlight Series is featuring a small publishing press. This month it's Graywolf Press, which has been in business since 1974.
I chose to review Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer. Hannah Bryant is an artist living in solitude on an island, a former granite quarry, off the coast of Maine she inherited from her great-uncle. Hannah is as much of a hermit as you can get but one summer company starts to arrive. First, it's a half-drowned dog that's washed up with the tide. Next, a teenaged boy is sent to her by her half-sister; Will is on the run from his abusive father. With two living things dependent on her for survival, Hannah finds that she must put her work aside and deal with the outside world. Just beyond the barrier of the sea is the truth of her life and it isn't always pretty.
I have a bias. I had to review Pocketful of Names because it involved an island and lobster fishing. You had me at 'island and lobster fishing.' But even disregarding that I fell into the lyrical rhythm of the prose and the lovely storytelling. I ended up staying up late to finish it.
The characters are well developed and I couldn't help falling in love with them. I didn't always like Hannah. She was bitchy at times and her "my work is too important for you silly humans to understand" attitude often drove me nuts. Still, Hannah has a soft heart under the paint and stone. I particularly loved her relationship with her great-uncle. There was mutual love and respect between them.
The setting steals the show though. The island of Ten Acre No Nine has a personality of its own and its own secrets. I loved that I could see it in my mind's eye. I could see the pink granite, the few trees, the little house. You can imagine a person living completely cut off from the world in a place like that.
Pocketful of Names is not without its flaws. It's quite a long book and drags in places. I also found some parts of the ending a bit tidy. A little mystery never hurt anyone. My overall opinion is that's a very well written and intriguing story about losing faith and finding love.