The ghostly pull of the past is inescapable for a Depression-era teenage girl drawn back to her remote island home off the coast of Maine.
Even though repeatedly told by her aunt never to go back to Sanctuary, the old sprawling mansion in which she grew up, 17-year-old Cecilia Cross is compelled to return from boarding school to face this epicenter of tragedy. Her grandmother and sister had died in a fire there, and her mother is now in an asylum. Meanwhile the ghosts of earlier settlers, including Capt. Winship and his wife, Amoret, the mid-18th-century master and mistress of Sanctuary when it was first built, hauntingly resurface. Eli Bauer, ostensibly a bookish professor, becomes a love interest who is more helpful than Cecilia could ever have hoped. Debut author McKissack is earnest in her ambitious efforts to create a multilayered tale with interesting historical elements, and she uses journal entries to good effect. Yet the story often feels “told” rather than experienced, with repetitious exposition and uninspired dialogue.
Although tonally reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, it lacks the deft plotting, character development, and narrative fluency of that earlier classic. (Gothic romance. 14-18)