In the winter of 1939, months into World War II, orphaned Virginia Wrathmell arrives at her new home at Salt Winds. The old mansion, adjacent to a treacherous marsh she’s instructed never to enter, a distant mother, Lorna, and a kindly father, Clem, welcome the sensitive orphan into her new life in Elizabeth Brooks’ The Orphan of Salt Winds.
76 years later, on New Year’s Eve 2015, a much frailer Virginia lives isolated and alone in a deteriorating Salt Winds. Haunted by the events that have transpired between her childhood and the present day, Virginia is relieved, and resolved to her fate when she comes across a sign indicating that her time has come. And the surprise appearance of a teenage girl in the marsh on the same night allows Virginia to finally tell her story, shedding once and for all the ghosts and sins that she’s carried with her for decades.
Years prior, everything changed for Virginia the day an enemy plane crash-landed in the marsh. Clem set out to help the injured pilot and never returned. Creepy widower Max Deering, who was once engaged to Lorna and has an unsettling interest in young Virginia, saw the opening as his chance to take everything he ever wanted. But it’s what’s hiding in the attic that forever alters the course of everyone’s lives.
Brooks’ gripping debut is a gothic-noir masterpiece. Atmospheric and mesmerizing, the slow, suspenseful build to the climax is perfectly paced. The back-and-forth between the two timelines always left me hanging just enough that I couldn’t possibly put the book down, making this the perfect choice for a weekend read. And while the ending is satisfying (you come to know what is in the attic and whose blood covers the floor), it doesn’t wrap everything up in a nice, pretty bow — exactly how a good gothic novel should end.
Perfect for fans of Jane Eyre, All the Light We Cannot See, and The Woman in the Window, The Orphan of Salt Winds would make a perfect addition to your 2019 TBR.