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Winter Haven Kindle Edition
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
I loved the beautiful descriptions of the granite island fifty miles off the coast of Maine, where Vera must go to claim the body of her brother found on one of the island's beaches. But she cannot at first believe the body is her brother's as he has not aged in the thirteen years since he ran away from home. And he has on his body a Viking artifact.
The story grows spooky as Vera is chased by a ghost and showers of stones like the ones on the beach where her brother was found, and warnings from her angry landlord and the island sheriff. Who can she trust and believe on an island filled with hostile people and ghost stories?
In the end, she solves the mysteries and makes almost everyone tell the truth. And the truth sets her free.
I liked the descriptions of the autistic brother and the problems he created in church for his father. After I read an article about a research project involving siblings to autistic people when we were living in Alaska and attending a church where the people did not want to deal with our daughter's severe autism, I asked my oldest son what it was like having an autistic sister. In the pause between my question and his answer, my daughter squealed and then groaned in the basement (she is still non-verbal, which does not mean quiet.) My son answered that it was like living with a wookie in the basement. We've called her Wookie, ever since, because if you tell her "No." she might rip your arm off. So we've had to come up with all sorts of new strategies to live with that. When I see autistics described as Indigo Children or wise sages, I lose all patience. A high enough percentage of those of us on the spectrum are savant so that I can stand another literary description of a savant autistic, which we have here. Vera's brother has memorized the Bible in several languages. That turns out to be a useful savant skill (most aren't) though it is misused by the father as he tries to maintain his status as a healer.
Elegantly written with a satisfying puzzle and plot, I can recommend this book to anybody who likes good literature and is not scared by charismatic gifts.
Upon arrival at Winter Haven, Vera is instantly aware of how unique this place is. The people are quiet and keep to themselves and seem bothered by the presence of a stranger. Yet, there is an underlying sense of danger / unease. Why does she feel like there is a hidden secret?
Vera is lead to the old shack (Ice house) where her brother's body has been preserved. She is shocked to discover that that not only is the body indeed her brother, but he also hasn't aged a day since he vanished thirteen years ago. Vera sets out on a quest for the truth behind this startling revelation and along the way learns the dark history of Winter Haven. Her search for truth will bring her face to face with her greatest fears and her troubled past. The truth that is uncovered will forever change Vera and the people of Winter Haven. And I never saw it coming. Some of it yes, but not all of it.
Athol Dickson is one of my favorite authors. Winter Haven is further proof of the depth of his talent and his storytelling ability. At its core this is a mystery novel, yet it is so much more. Dickson treats us to a wonderfully drawn story that includes suspense, chills, a hint of romance, and a search for spiritual truth that will resonate with the reader long after the last line.
I highly advise "River Rising" if you enjoy this story. This is Athol Dickson at his best and fans of unique mysteries and suspense will love this story.
Vera is a CPA working in Texas whose brother has not been seen or heard from in 13 years. She gets a call one day from Maine that they have found him, but he is dead. After absorbing this news, she heads up to Maine to claim her brothers body. In order to understand Vera, you have to understand the extreme close bond she and her brother have. From this bond stems the rest of the story. Winter Haven, Maine, and the experiences Vera has there, help her grow emotionally and become free to life her life. You will find a little religion in this book as Vera and her brother Siggy were raised by their preacher father. If religion is not your cup of tea, fear not. it is not overly done. For those who do not like sex in their novels, relax. there is none except for a kiss or two.
This book is about closure as Vera sees her brother's body, finds out how he died, and becomes proud of his accomplishments and courage. It is a book where Vera learns to appreciate who she is and become free to love. It is about a New England town who, despite giving Vera such a hard time in the beginning, come to know her and respect her as a person. It is a book about a small New England town and, how once they have accepted you, they are loyal and true.
This book has suspence, chills, a bit of romance, and characters who are so vivid you will think you know them for real after you finish the book. This book is about real life struggles, and no I do not mean reality TV. I mean real life and how hard it can be.
This book is a great read and I recommend it highly.
The author does get a little long in the mouth when the mystery is at its thickest. I found myself skipping over pages of description that weren't particularly necessary, especially when we'd been over similar depictions of the forest and whatnot before. Better editing would have made this a 5-star story. Also, the winding in and out of past/present events and memories/dreams is never clearly cut, so you end up not having a 100% understanding of anything until Vera describes it all at the very end of the book.
Despite those downfalls, I found it intriguing. This is partly a mystery, a smidgen of romance (would have preferred more interaction between Evan and Vera), a good dose of paranormal, an even bigger dose of deception, and a BIG part spiritual. Vera's deeply Christian background plays so heavily into everything that I was almost bored by it. There's so many questions and feelings of God being a cold, angry being that when peace and resolution come, you're almost loathe to believe it.
I will say, it was a good book, and I love a story that uses fate to pull together the past/present/future so that everything makes sense and falls into a neat little puzzle. If you're very anti-Christian, you might not enjoy this book.
The writing is wonderful, a pleasure to read, but there is no impulsion in this work. By which I mean, you can put this down in the middle of a sentence and not worry about what happens next.
The theme seems to be that you can question God. But as far as I could figure, the only one saying you couldn't was the narrator's father, and he was saying it as a harried man who had lost his wife and whose son had run off. I can't imagine any father, even a minister, getting involved in a theological discussion with a kid under those circumstances and the narrator is old enough, now, to at least give lip service to the idea that her father was under so much pressure that he blew her off.
So, if you want to read absolutely, breathtakingly, beautiful writing, and don't mind a very, very slow pace, this might work for you. But if you want normal pacing, don't bother.
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