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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack

"Something stirred deep inside of me, something primal and potent. I felt like I was coming home and that I was farther away than I'd ever been."

Last year at ALA Annual, I was exploring booths when I ran across a woman picking up a book. That woman was Jennifer McKissack overcome with emotion at seeing her book in print and displayed for readers. We were speaking a few minutes, and ever since then, I've been trying to get this book out of my TBR pile! I am glad I did. It is more than simply another ghostly paranormal story. The setting of Sanctuary is eerie, yet conjures up some familiarity for the reader in returning to a place of our own past and finding it both similar and unknown.

Though it seems more of a haunted house story, the setting does not dwell heavily on the house and exploring the house, but rather Cecilia and her slow maturation from childhood thoughts and memories and justifying that with the person she is now and who she will be in the future. I loved this juxtaposition of past versus present and future for Cecilia. Her self-identity is in crisis and yet she is the only one who can fix herself. Through a slowly spellbinding and mysterious rhetoric, Cecilia unravels mysteries and commits herself to be a curse breaker and do what generations of women before her have ultimately failed and been trapped themselves at attempting--to free Amoret and the spirits of Sanctuary.

Along with a strong theme of feminism or the hidden strengths of women, there is a deep sense of ancestry and heritage that is significant in the novel revolving around Cecilia and the Acadians of Canada. For those who are unfamiliar, Acadia was an area colonized by French settlers which is now part of Quebec, the Maritime provinces of Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island [of Anne of Green Gables fame] etc.), and parts of Maine. Acadians, while mostly French, were also made up of the Mi'kimaq who were people indigenous to that area. The history contained in the book is something I missed the first time around, but it plays a key role for Cecilia and Sanctuary. Amoret, whom Cecelia's mother and sister were obsessed with, was Acadian and along with her family and other Acadians were forcibly removed from their land by the British, part of the Great Upheaval during the French and Indian War. (Fun fact: When the British sent a portion of the Acadians to France, a majority of them resettled in southern Louisiana thereby making the area Acadian or "Cajun", the heritage of which is still significant today.)

There are some romantic elements as Cecilia finds the professor, Eli, intriguing and begins to confide in him, since he appears to be sympathetic and kind and altogether unlike her terrorizing uncle. As their trust grows, Cecilia finds herself falling in love with him when she never thought something was possible, and Eli seems to love her too. Still, Cecilia knows he's holding something back from her. She grows conflicted with her relationships, her past, and her own mental state which she figures must be coloring his judgment of her. These doubts and secrets have the potential to ruin any chance at future happiness.

Sanctuary is written with haunting precision, like being slowly drawn into a web by a malicious spider. The historical details were woven throughout with care and added rich depth to the story. This book is perfect for those nights of fall and winter! Be sure to curl up with a nice hot cup of tea or cocoa and don’t forget to find a nice haunted mansion for inspiration!


Tynga is a 32 years old mom of two, from Montreal, working as a lab technician in an hospital specialized in heart disease. In her free time, she enjoys reading all things Paranormal and photography.

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