Charis Cotter’s Haunting Portrait of Familial Ghosts

The setting becomes as significant and fully realized as the characters

The night of her mother’s car accident marks the beginning of a strange series of events in Annie’s life. She finds herself falling into a painting, rescued from the attic, of a rugged Newfoundland lighthouse.

As she enters the world of the painting, Annie meets Claire, who thinks Annie is the ghost of her little sister, who died several years earlier. Annie makes repeated visits to the past through various paintings, all by Maisie King, who is Claire’s mother.

Claire believes that Annie is there to offer her forgiveness and help her deal with Maisie; Claire and Maisie seem to constantly be at odds with one another.

The more that Annie fits together the pieces of her family’s puzzle, the more she is convinced that her visits to the young and deeply unhappy Claire hold the key to her own mother’s recovery in the present.

This intricate and exquisitely-wrought story holds something to entice virtually every reader. It is at once a carefully-constructed mystery, a layered and sensitive family drama and a sophisticated time-travel adventure with ghostly elements. Alternating between the points of view of Annie and Claire, Cotter adeptly crafts the characters of both girls and their troubled relationships with their mothers. She expertly depicts the remote Newfoundland landscape, Claire’s resentment of it and the way in which it calls to Annie.

Moody and asmospheric, the setting becomes as significant and as fully realized as the characters, each of whom are realistically flawed and authentic. The story unfolds at exactly the right pace and is a delicately nuanced tale of secrets, shadows of the past, family ties, heartache and healing.

The Painting
Charis Cotter
Tundra Books


Written By

Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax. She shares her passion for children’s and young adult books as our young readers editor and book reviewer.

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