Mistwalker, by Saundra Mitchell, was so h*eckin’ good. There, I said it. Review over.
Okay, not really. But after being totally blown away by the story, the prose, the imagery, and the characters, I just had to get that off my chest.
What Mistwalker is about:
All Willa Dixon wants is to be the next lobsterman (lobsterwoman? Lobsterperson?) aboard her family’s boat, the Jenn-A-Lo. She lives for the sea and the lobstering trade and would never give it up for anything or anyone.
But she might have to, because after her brother’s death, her father has forbidden her from boarding the Jenn-A-Lo ever again. As if this weren’t bad enough, Willa’s family is struggling to keep it together, financially and emotionally, in the turbulent aftermath of her brother’s death. Willa will do anything to keep her family and her lobstering dreams intact—even pay a visit to the Grey Man, the spirit supposedly haunting the lighthouse on Jackson Island.
Little does Willa know that the Grey Man is actually longing for her to visit in the hopes that he can convince her to take his place. Will Willa’s desperation drive her to sacrifice herself?
Why Mistwalker is great:
There is so much to love about Mistwalker. One, there’s basically no romance—my favorite! Grey gives seduction a stab, but Willa is so unresponsive to it that he quickly changes his tactics; and while Willa has a boyfriend, her love life is hardly her main concern.
Willa is tough and grieving, practical and solid. She has a real presence in the story and she makes an excellent anchor for the reader despite her turbulent circumstances. The people of Broken Tooth, Maine are tough, solid, and loving in a quiet way. They settle their quarrels quickly and quietly, but they never forget a slight. They stick together because they know that no one else understands their rough-and-tumble way of life.
I really appreciated little details like Willa noting that she likes wearing jewelry when she’s off the Jenn-A-Lo. She’s is very much an “everygirl,” one who loves her family and wants her brother back. She doesn’t whine, but she does lash out; she doesn’t process her grief in a tidy way, but she does do it realistically. And when push comes to shove, Willa makes the most incredible choices. The ending of this book genuinely surprised me—twice.
I’ll admit that part of the reason that I liked this book so much was because it reminded me so, so strongly of a place that’s very dear to me: Nantucket Island. My grandparents live there, and I’ve spent so much time there that it really feels like home. I’m usually homesick for it, if I’m honest, so it was nice to (sort of) take a trip back. Willa’s accounts of digging up worms for bait on cold, raw, gray beaches dredged up so many scalloping memories.
It’s hard not to feel affection for a book that reminds you of home, but I liked Mistwalker for more than that. The prose was terse but poetic; the story was rich and compelling; and I totally fell in love with Willa and her vision for her life. Even if life doesn’t go quite the way she thinks it will, Willa learns that it keeps going all the same.
What books remind you of home?