Victoria Anne McBride is dead, mourned and buried. Unfortunately, she doesn’t see it that way and refuses to move on. There’s something she needs to tell her husband, Will. Until she does, she will wait for his return to their home, Stone Cottage. For as long as it takes, she will wait...wait...wait.
Rebecca Wainwright is a 21st century woman. Her world is perfectly controlled. Just the way she likes it. Tragedy strikes and she descends into chaos. Trying to heal, she searches for a sanctuary...a place of her own, away from the burdensome concern of her family and best friend. A place where she can lick her wounds without anyone watching. She stumbles across a lovely stone home located off the beaten path and feels completely at home, as if she’d been there before. Why is she so drawn to this place? How can it help her to heal?
Perhaps, Annie can help.
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It is difficult to not get emotionally drawn to Stone Cottage. For me, that sentiment owed to knowledge brought by successive tours of life regression. For others, it may well begin with highly relatable social/personal issues and a century-long saga of silent nostalgia. These are ingredients that somehow always manage to pull a string or two in our hearts.
This story is about a businesswoman who, weighed down by a male-centric workplace among other things, heads out for a much needed break. Her mindless drive leads to an eerily familiar cottage where she chances upon sporadic real-life scenes from a much distant past as in a vision. Her ensuing investigation soon opens a Pandora’s box as she digs in to find out what had happened at Stone Cottage and how it all connects to her.
Author Maighread Mackay’s tilt is largely towards the spiritual. Her opening quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet is evidence enough. It is further bolstered in the moment her corporate protagonist is led by her friend to a yoga session as means to a cure. Yet, the subject truly resides around the ghost in Stone Cottage whose story runs - as normally as one may expect - simultaneously with that of the living. We may have seen people get startled at seeing a ghost, but how often do we stop to think whether the ghost was as startled to see us? That is the kind of 360-degree view the narrative provides.
For most of the book, we keep reverting to flashback mode – that of Rebecca, the executive, and of the now-deceased previous occupants of Stone Cottage. With due acknowledgement to an earnest effort at giving us a holistic view, there remains further scope to sharpen the text in the first half of her book. That said, Ms. Mackay handles things carefully with her language oscillating between contemporary urban and 19th century British, its Scottish and English touch well in place. The descriptive details of archaic or decked-up infrastructure help readers on the way.
Juice, though, lies in how things progress, for we hop over several subjects wherein one initially feels the book is about a trans-life connection, then about the complexities of human behavior, followed by another character’s need to find herself. Soon, it becomes a mission to unlock the mystery of a past tragedy, until we come to focus squarely on a transcendent world. Eventually, one realizes that this tale is, in effect, about all of the above. Such mix demands, and achieves, a certain flair and experiential smoothness à la chocolate mousse.
In the end, there is one central message that springs out of the pages – “let go.” Its deliverance is the author’s objective. In shaping the two chief ladies – one driven by ambition, the other by love – she understands that while our incapacity to detach underlies some of our greatest achievements as well as defeats, peace is rarely an outcome of such pursuit. And unless we achieve that, we are probably bound to keep coming back to life on Earth. Thankfully, that would also mean coming back to the pages of Stone Cottage.
Book Review by The Fly
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