Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb

The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel
Title:  The Tale of Halcyon Crane
Author:  Wendy Webb
Publisher:  Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date:  March 30, 2010
Format:  Paperback, 352 pages
Age Group:  Adult

The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb is a modern ghost story filled with family secrets.  Hallie James receives a mysterious letter which turns her life upside down as it reveals that her mother, who she believed died when she was a child, was actually alive and only recently passed away.  Hallie discovers that her mother had believed that she and her father had died years before.  Now with the loss of her father, Hallie travels to Grand Manitou Island to learn about her childhood and family history.  The isolated islanders are not happy to see her and Hallie soon learns about a tragedy that occurred just before she and her father disappeared.  Strange things also begin happening in the house left to her by her mother.  With the help of Iris, the housekeeper, Hallie begins to lean about her family history and the strange secrets it contains.

Wendy Webb immediately captured my attention with her amazingly descriptive language.  I could envision exactly what Hallie was seeing, experiencing, and even feeling.  The description of the fog and the affect it had on Hallie was simply chilling and set the tone for the whole story to come.  I found myself paying attention to the specific words that Webb used while at the same time being completely caught up in the story.  It is a rare book that can impact me like that - generally if I'm entranced in the story I am not paying attention to the language or if I am noticing the language it means I am not fully engaged with the story.

The family history that Iris tells Hallie is certainly an unusual tale but it seems to fit the setting and time period.  One decision made in a time of desperation impacts all the generations to come.  It made me wonder how the story might continue if Hallie has children in the future or if her actions break the cycle for good.  I loved how the modern actions of the islanders and the family history are woven together even without people understanding how the past has changed their present.

I would love to give this book a five star rating but there were a couple of odd things that didn't quite fit to me.  The first even Hallie recognizes - Why are the islanders so hostile toward her?  She was very young when her father faked their deaths and, although the event that her reappearance brings back into the collective mind of the residents is horrible, she should not be blamed for that event.  While Hallie actually wonders about this at one point in the book I don't think the question is ever really resolved.  One particular character seems to me to almost be an afterthought or just kind of extra.  Although Jonah's story is explained, I think that side story was unnecessary and he probably could have been left out entirely.  There was also one section of the book which gave a big buildup and then I felt the actual event didn't warrant that much drama beforehand.

In spite of these small inconsistencies, I enjoyed The Tale of Halcyon Crane tremendously.  It was very different from the other books I have been reading lately.  I think it only took me about two days to read and most of the books I've read lately have taken a full week or more.  I really didn't want to put this one down because I wanted to know what was going on at Hallie's island house but then I was sad when the story ended because it had captured all of my attention.

I received an Advance Reader's Edition of The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb from the Early Reviewer Program at LibraryThing for the purpose of providing an honest review.

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