When Willa Dixon’s brother dies on the family lobster boat, her father forbids Willa from stepping foot on the deck again. With her family suffering, she’ll do anything to help out—even visiting the Grey Man.
Everyone in her small Maine town knows of this legendary spirit who haunts the lighthouse, controlling the fog and the fate of any vessel within his reach. But what Willa finds in the lighthouse isn’t a spirit at all, but a young man trapped inside until he collects one thousand souls.
Desperate to escape his cursed existence, Grey tries to seduce Willa to take his place. With her life on land in shambles, will she sacrifice herself?
Mistwalker by Saundra Mitchell introduces Willa Dixon; a young girl who realizes too late that one simple act of revenge can cost more than you’re able to pay. When Willa’s brother dies in their fishing boat one night, so does her dream of living out the rest of her life, fishing for lobster in Broken Tooth, Maine, the fishing community that she calls home. Willa believes that she is indirectly responsible for her brother’s death, and one of the crazy things she believes can help her is the Grey Lady. According to legend, The Grey Lady lives inside the lighthouse on Jackson’s Rock and can grant you anything you wish. But when Willa finally finds the courage to go, she meets the Grey Man, the Grey Lady’s predecessor, whom she is drawn to when all others in town are unaffected. Willa questions her belief in this mystical boy who seems to have it all, when in fact he is just as eager to trade places with her for a life on land.
Willa and the Grey Man, shortened to “Grey,” have alternating chapters and each chapter in Grey’s perspective is filled with contempt for his lifestyle and excitement and curiosity towards Willa, who he believes could be his savior from his mystical prison. While Willa is just as mystified by Grey, she has enough sense to distance herself from him and remind herself of her harsh reality. Her parents are static in the background, not really able to get past her brothers death, which makes Willa feel invisible at times. It seems her parents only acknowledge her when she’s done something wrong, like skip school, or when she doesn’t show up on time.
As a character, Willa is stuck in cruise control. We meet her as she is going through the motions after her brother’s death, and we don’t see development in her actions until the end. At times, I had a hard time connecting with her because she lacked emotional reactions to things happening around her. But what she lacked in emotions, she made up for in love for her family, and how she didn’t let anything stop her from doing what she knew had to be done. She worked hard to help her family make ends meet, and she sacrificed her schooling at times to go dig for bloodworms from which she made a small profit. It shows how dedicated she was to proving her worth to her family, especially after her brother died, knowing she was indirectly responsible for it.
I really liked the legend behind the lighthouse on Jackson’s Rock, and how her town had told the legend to each generation. It gave Broken Tooth more of a special factor, whereas it could have just been another fishing community on the east coast. The mist created by the Grey Lady/Man was also an interesting twist, although I felt that the story didn’t lend enough time to explaining it. I would have liked to know why one of the rules was to collect 1,000 souls to be released, or why everything about Grey was made up of mist. The mist descriptions were handled really beautifully and it made all of the scenes with Grey that much more vivid in my mind.
The romance in this story was not traditional, as Willa did not make it a priority to focus on physical or emotional attachments to the boys around her. It almost didn’t exist, except for the few scenes with her boyfriend – which was very tame. Romance served a purpose in the story, but only as a means of persuasion on Grey’s part. Grey was persuaded by the Grey Lady with lust and blind love, and Grey thought to use the same method on Willa, until he realized it was not going to work. The romance was also present in the writing, when Willa is describing her town and her love for the sea. I felt how stranded Willa felt while on land and how sad she felt when she wasn’t allowed on her father’s fishing boat. I liked that Willa was comfortable with her small town life, and how she wasn’t desperate to get out of it, as some of her classmates felt. Small town life isn’t for everyone, but it’s a change of pace when a young adult character doesn’t want to flee to the big city. It’s okay to want to be in the same place you’ve always been. One thing expected of YA novels is that the main character “grows up” over the course of the story. With Willa, we’re shown that she matured enough to see a solution to her problem, but that she will continue to grow and learn after the end of the story.
I would recommend this story to older teens that enjoy stories with a lot of description and imagery, with a bit of magic.
My Over All Rating: