A home in which to heal

Photo courtesy of Don Hinckle

“Windswept,” by Kate Hancock. Sunstone Press, 2014. 145 pages. Available online, as an e-book from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and at Edgartown Books.

Most young readers like an adventure that starts with a bang. Kate Hancock’s “Windswept” does start with a bang — two of them: It’s a pirate captain shooting two of his mates on Chappaquiddick near the beginning of the 1800s. From there, the story mysteriously jumps to two 10-year-olds in 2001.

But don’t lose the memory of those pirates. That part of the tale continues in a parallel fashion to one of the twins, Andy and Samantha, who are ending their summer vacation on East Chop. Ending summer and leaving the Vineyard are annual traumas for many kids. My wife started coming to the Island in the early ’50s, when she and her family stayed at the late Ohoma Inn. When time to leave came, she cried so much that her father joked that the ocean levels would rise. So he bought a small cottage, and its insulated replacement is where we now live year-round.

To return to the story, the pirates were burying a chest full of treasure, which becomes a focus for the twins, who hope to find it and help their mother with her finances. Their father was killed in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, after he had arranged to buy a wonderful old house on the Vineyard for his wife and kids.

The house is called Windswept because it sits on the bluffs overlooking the Sound, and is buffeted with varying degrees of strength by the constant winds that cross the Chop. In reality, the house sits there still, but the story Hancock tells is fictional — she added a tower to the house that isn’t there.

In the novel, the tower holds a mystery, and Andy is eager to solve it, with help from his sister Sam. They discover a clue to that buried treasure on Chappaquiddick. With help from their grandparents and Islanders, they eventually get to the beach where the treasure chest was buried.

The author keeps the story moving quickly; there’s something intriguing on nearly every page (without bringing in vampires or kids slaying one another), and certainly at the end of each of 37 chapters, up to the doubly interesting epilogue, which completes the story of the pirate treasure in a most satisfactory, and unpredictable, way.

Kate Hancock was in Ridgewood, N.J., teaching school to fourth graders on 9/11. Three of the children in her class lost fathers on that day, and Kate watched with empathy the healing of their families, which became the genesis of this book. Then, because she and her husband Fred moved to the Vineyard in 2005, the Island became a major player along with some of its stories and legends.

This should be a great gift for kids of appropriate ages, both genders, especially if they hate to leave the Vineyard when summer is over. It also includes a pertinent lesson on brotherhood.

An Interview with Kate Hancock:

Why are Andy and Sam twins? What made you decide on a boy and girl, twins, as your heroes? What if it had just been Andy’s story? Or Samantha’s?

I have always loved the idea of twins — the closeness of their relationship and the way they understand each other. I always wanted to be one. I chose to make them different genders because girls and boys handle emotional issues differently, and I wanted to be sure that I included both in the story. As it was, I worried that the book might be too heavily weighted toward girls. I guess that’s kind of natural, being a woman, but the year after the tragedy of 9/11 I had a young boy in my class who had lost his dad on 9/11. I hadn’t known him before he came into my class, but a close friend had filled me in a bit. He was a darling boy, but he often seemed to be surprised by life, as if he couldn’t quite figure out what had happened to his world. I don’t know if that was true or if I was reading things into it, but that was my impression. His mother was so inspiring. She had five children to raise, the youngest a newborn. I was so impressed with her strength. She was sort of a model for Rachel [the mother in “Windswept”].

Rachel is a mature woman faced with awful reality, but she emerges as a helpful and right-thinking mother. Then you introduce a single nice-guy handyman, Dan, who also has a young daughter. Are they going to become a couple?

No, absolutely not. Both Dan and Rachel are focused on their children and creating a life for them. Romance is not in the picture. Rachel clearly adored Ben, and I can’t see her becoming involved with another man so soon after losing him. Besides, she would know that it would create untold problems for Sam and Andy. Dan of course has his own devils to deal with, and just keeping body and soul together is enough for him.

Are there too many “nice” people in your story? Shouldn’t there be a villain, an opposing force?

There are villains. They are bigotry, ignorance, and fanaticism, which seem to be gigantic forces in the world today. As for too many nice people, one reason I set the story here on the Vineyard is that it is such a caring and supportive place. Almost every week there is an article in one of the papers about a potluck supper, concert, or raffle to help a person or family in need. I guess it’s in part because we live on an island. We have to depend on one another. I thought that if I were faced with such a tragedy, I would want to come to a place like the Vineyard to heal. It was wonderful to see the way the country came together after 9/11. It saddens me that the current climate seems to have gone backwards. I wanted to write about the children that I know here and whom I taught. They are kind, thoughtful young people, not just part of the “me” generation. I’m not saying they’re perfect, but at the end of the day, they are kind and compassionate. Why shouldn’t that be the example we set for our children in the books they read? I think there’s room for every type of story on our bookshelves, and I hope there’s a place to celebrate the best in human beings.

Is it easy for an Island author to get his or her book in an Island bookstore? Will there be an e-book of this?

I don’t think I would say it’s easy, but it can happen. Sunstone Press in Santa Fe, N.M., is a small publisher, so much of the promotion is my responsibility. I’m not very comfortable with the idea of promoting myself, so I probably don’t go about it in the right way.  I’m just thrilled to have the book published and have people reading it. That being said, the book is available at Edgartown Books, and on Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com, and Google Books. The e-book should be available by the end of the year.

Do you think you’ll write a sequel to “Windswept”?

A great many people have asked me that.  I think I probably will, because I want to know what happens to these people with whom I’ve been “living” for all these years. Right now I’m working on something else, though, so I don’t think it will happen right away. You never know, though, when the characters will start talking again, and then I have no choice but to write down what they tell me.