Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack

Title: Sanctuary
Author: Jennifer McKissack
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: September 29th 2015
Source: Copy provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review (Thanks Scholastic!)

Summary from Goodreads:
After the untimely death of her aunt, Cecilia Cross is forced to return to Sanctuary, a rambling, old mansion that crowns a remote island off the coast of Maine. Cecilia is both drawn to and repulsed by Sanctuary. The scent of the ocean intoxicates her, but she’s also haunted by the ghosts of her past—of her father and sister who died there, of her mother who was torn away from her and sent to an asylum, and of the vengeful spirit of a woman wronged. Flooding memories leave Cecilia shaken, desperate to run away and forget her terrible family history.

But then a mysterious guest arrives at Sanctuary: Eli Bauer, a professor sent to examine Sanctuary’s library. Cecilia is intrigued by this strange young man who seems so interested in her—even more interested in her than in the books he is meant to be studying. Who is he and what does he want? Can Cecilia possibly trust her growing feelings for him? And can he help her make peace a tragic past and a haunted present?

Luminous and evocative, Sanctuary is a remarkable exploration of love and loss—and the ghosts that come back to haunt us.


Gothic, haunting, and eerie.  Sanctuary immediately draws the reader into the mystery of Cecilia's family mansion, Sanctuary.  Cecilia feels this un-explainable draw to Sanctuary's grounds, the sheer unusual circumstances of her return and the death of her family members peaked my curiosity.

The haunting beginning had me flipping through pages but the plot began to slow and focus on the budding relationship between Eli and Cecilia.  While the reader still slowly learns more about the underlying ghosts of Sanctuary, the details are blended throughout the pages filled with character building, romance, and descriptive imagery. The descriptive imagery paints an eerie yet hauntingly beautiful scene that slightly reminds me of older (not too scary) ghost stories.  Even though there are some evil spirits lurking around the grounds, Sanctuary is not horror story, at its core its a good versus evil story.

My main reservation is the plot pacing, the book started off with a fast paced plot that quickly slowed down until the last 40ish pages.  The last bit is where all the action happen but it felt rushed and underdeveloped. While I did not guess at the couple of plot twists, there was looming sense of deceit throughout the book.  The imaginative writing and haunting story came to a quick abrupt finish leaving me with an unresolved feeling.   Ultimately, Sanctuary is a shorter book with quick chapters, beautifully Gothic writing, and a haunted family ghost story.

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