If you enjoy novels set on Cape Cod, you will love the finely-crafted debut novel “Seeking Glory: A Novel About Relationships, Loss, and Finding Your Way Home” (Outskirts Press, Inc. 2018) by Patricia Hamilton Shook.
Shook is a resident of Sharon with a timeshare in Yarmouth. But her Cape Cod roots run deep. She has known the Cape since she was a child staying in her grandmother’s cottage on a street that dead-ended into Nantucket Sound in Harwich Port.
“It was a very different time and the cottage had no telephone, no television, no bathtub/shower and no hot running water,” Shook remembered in an email interview last week. “None of that mattered, and in fact, it was part of the charm of those long-ago summer vacations.”
While most of “Seeking Glory” is set on present-day Cape Cod, it also takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area. Although Shook was born and raised in Weymouth, she moved with her parents to San Francisco at age 15 when her father retired from the post office. “I lived in California for the next 12 years, and my time living there influenced my use of San Francisco as the place where Kate’s daughter Ally was living with her own little girl Glory,” Shook says, speaking of her main characters. Shook returned to Massachusetts after her parents died; she and her husband have now lived here for 38 years and are the parents of two adult sons.
“Seeking Glory” opens with 53-year-old Kate LaRue, who runs Sea Witch Art and Gifts along Route 6A in Yarmouthport, closing up shop for the day and heading to her home, on the south side of the Cape, near Nantucket Sound. Kate has a lot on her mind—business seems slow. But whatever her worries, they are nothing compared to what is about to happen.
Kate has been estranged from her only daughter, Ally, for 10 years. When she receives a telephone call from a social worker at San Francisco General Hospital, telling her that her daughter is a patient there, she immediately flies west.
Ally, whom Kate last saw as a punked-out 18-year-old, dies almost as soon as Kate arrives in the ICU. And then comes another shock: Ally was the mother of a four-year-old. And a third shock follows soon after that: Kate’s granddaughter, Glory, does not speak. Her teachers believe she has been in some way traumatized. A doctor tells Kate that Glory’s condition may be “elective mutism.” In other words, she has chosen not to speak.
Kate is suddenly the stunned sole caregiver of a young child: “What was she going to do with a four-year-old who could not, or would not, talk?” The answer to this question forms the plot of this suspenseful novel.
And the situation is perplexing. Does Glory have autism? Or is someone stalking her—perhaps someone who was stalking Ally before her death? During her days in San Francisco and then back on Cape Cod, against the advice of her friends and her hostile ex-husband David, Kate turns detective as she looks into the missing 10 years of her late daughter’s life to unravel the mystery of Glory’s muteness. The reader continuously asks: Why won’t Glory speak? Will Kate get to the bottom of this?
Here, another piece of Shook’s biography colors the story. Shook is a psychologist whose career has been primarily focused on working with children and adults with developmental disabilities.
“This included the use of play therapy as an intervention with children and that, of course, is how the child psychologist approaches treatment with Glory,” Shook says. “Play therapy as a treatment approach for children with elective mutism was something I had been reading about when I was getting ready to write the book.”
At home, Kate and Glory get into a routine, and as the weeks pass, Kate changes. A co-worker tells Kate that having Glory has been good for her. “She’s forcing you out into the world a little more where you have to talk to people, get to know them, ask for help, admit you don’t know everything, can’t do everything yourself.”
“Seeking Glory” took many years to write, as is often the nature of first novels. “I was in no rush because initially I did not expect to publish it,” Shook says. “I enjoyed the process, though; creating and developing the characters and the plot, spending time on the Cape perfecting the setting, researching the theories behind the characters’ behavior and motivation.
“I can get immersed in a different world and people with different problems especially when there is a mystery to be solved,” she adds. The resolution of Glory’s mystery is both dramatic and satisfying.
Shook is now at work on a second novel. “I would rather not provide too much information but there are some similar themes to ‘Seeking Glory’—family dynamics, mystery, psychology/religion /spirituality but with different twists,” she says.
Shook will sign “Seeking Glory” at Yellow Umbrella Books in Chatham on Mon., Aug. 5 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. “Seeking Glory” is also available locally at Booksmith/Musicsmith in Orleans.