I recently finished The Tale of Halcyon Crane, by Wendy Webb. When I finished it I knew I wanted to do a review. Why? That’s a bit less straightforward. Essentially the story is a tale of mistaken identity–Halcyon grows up the child of a widowed father, or so she believes. The book begins with a letter informing her that her mother has recently died and left her a bequest. She need only return to Great Manitou Island in Lake Superior to get it. (There will be more about Great Manitou Island later–it’s another case of mistaken identity.)
She returns to the island to discover that her father initially fled with her to escape murder charges–and indeed, he has been suspected of having killed her; Hallie is as much a surprise to the islanders as her mother is to her. I won’t spoil the story for you, except to say that in the end I was a bit disappointed; it seemed a bit contrived, and there were too many unanswered questions for my taste.
But–and here’s why I wanted to review this book–one thing that does not disappoint is Webb’s creation of Great Manitou Island, where the story is set. As I indicated above, this is another case of mistaken identity–one that Webb hits slyly at in referring to Mackinac Island as a sister island. There is, in fact, a Manitou Island in Lake Superior, but it’s remote and as far as I could discover, essentially uninhabited. Manitou Island as Webb creates it is actually Mackinac Island, from the ferry to the horse-drawn carriages to the main street to the bed and breakfasts to the quaint restaurants to the seasonal shutdown, when the island is essentially cut off from the mainland for months at a time.
Though the story is a bit flat–Webb doesn’t seem to really make the most of her characters or supernatural elements–the sense of place she evokes is remarkable. Having been to Mackinac Island myself, I can attest to the fact that she has managed to capture the magic of the place wonderfully.
Another thing she does well is capture the characters of Halcyon’s parents. As the story develops, we come to understand how it is that Halcyon’s father could both be suspected of murder, and still be the wonderful, loving parent Halcyon knows–and how it might be that her mother could love her deeply and yet still put her at risk. Another thing she does well is create the small, close society of island life in a place that is isolated for much of the year.
All in all, this is a book worth reading–and do consider a visit to Mackinac Island! The Tale of Halcyon Crane is available from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback versions. Mackinac Island is, of course, available in Lake Superior, any time the ferry runs. If you plan to stay, it’s wise to schedule your visit well in advance–say, a year.