Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer: Review

Once again 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.

Highly recommended.

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  1. This sounds like a very interesting book. I have a fascination with hermits and why they live the way they do...this sounds like a book that will provide insight into how a hermit deals with intrusions. Great review.

  2. This sounds fascinating! I don't think I could ever be a hermit, but I have days where I want to be.

  3. This does seem intriguing! I can imagine that being an hermit would require a lot of oneself to welcome people in their lives. I wonder if she went back to being one...I guess I'd have to read it to find out.

  4. Very cute - you had me at ...lobster. :)

    It looks like Graywolf Press has some lovely books. Mine was.

  5. sounds like one of those books that is great for a read in front of the fire with she-crab soup or lobster bisque with homemade bread and hot tea and oh i'm making myself hungry just imagining it!

  6. Serena- Thanks!

    Kathy- lol! Me too.

    Valerie- My lips are sealed.

    Shellie- I'm glad you enjoyed yours.

    Stacy- Great menu ideas! Yum!

  7. It reminds me of a movie called Deeply. You may like it. Also reminds me of a book called Cold Skin because it takes place on a secluded island.

  8. I'm not sure this is my cup of tea, but I really loved your review of it. :)

  9. This sounds very quirky, which I like. I just added it to my TBR.

  10. I'm glad I'm not the only one drawn to quirky subjects! It sounds interesting.

    Your beret is gorgeous!


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