Friday, July 2, 2010

Review: The Island

Summary: Birdie Cousins has planned a getaway with her daughter Chess on rustic, charming Tuckernuck Island off the coast of Nantucket, a chance to bond before Chess's upcoming marriage. Birdie's been through a difficult divorce herself, so she knows the big commitment that marriage entails. She's only recently dared to tiptoe back into the waters of romance. When Chess abruptly breaks off the wedding and her fiancé shockingly dies in a rock climbing accident, it leaves Chess feeling guilty and deeply depressed. Birdie circles the wagons, convincing her younger daughter Tate, and her own sister India to join them on Tuckernuck for the month of July. Secrets and intrigue soon make their way to the surface, as Elin Hilderbrand once again weaves a masterful story of summer suspense. -- Reagan Arthur

Reading Elin Hilderbrand's books is beginning to become a summer tradition for me! A few years ago, I read A SUMMER AFFAIR (my review) and then last year it was THE CASTAWAYS (my review.) This year I read her latest novel THE ISLAND (which just happens to come out next week.) I think Ms. Hilderbrand manages to write the perfect summer stories!

One of the main reasons that THE ISLAND was such a great summertime book is that it was filled with wonderful characters. Ms. Hilderbrand has a knack for creating very flawed and complex characters that the reader will relate to and eventually learn to love! The book is about four women who decide to spend a month at their family's beach house. Birdie is a middle-aged divorced daughter of two who wants to spend some quality time with her daughter Chess before she gets married. However, when Chess decides to abruptly call off the marriage, the vacation takes an entirely new direction. Birdie ends up asking her youngest daughter Tate and her sister India to join them.

Each of these women were very different and they all needed this vacation for their own personal reason. None of them was happy or fulfilled with their current path in life, and each one was definitely carrying a great deal of baggage with them when the embarked on their trip. During the course of the novel, many stories and secrets about each character were revealed. (I have to say that, as a reader, I enjoyed reading about all of the drama and intrigue in their lives!) Though times were tough and relationships were strained, eventually each one of the women benefited from this trip, and they all became much closer to each other as a result.

I thought THE ISLAND was actually presented in an interesting manner. The story was told in alternating chapters about each of the four woman, and each chapter was written in the third person. Often times in books like this one, I enjoy having at least one of the characters tell their story in first person. But in this case, I really appreciated that the novel was written in a more distant (and less personal way.) I liked that I was able to learn each character's background without the slant of a first person voice. I thought it was extremely effective way to tell these women's stories.

Another thing that really stood out to me was the title of the book. THE ISLAND is a pretty simple title and certainly captured the setting of Tuckernuck Island; however, I discovered that it had a deeper meaning for me as a reader. When each of the women first arrived on the island, they were at critical junctures in their lives -- they were either unhappy, feeling guilty, making major relationship changes, or just trying to figure out what they wanted out of life. They were internalizing almost all of their issues and carrying a tremendous amount of baggage -- it really was if each one was living on their very own island. It wasn't until they started talking to each other (and listening to each other too) that they began to see their lives in a clearer way and actually begin the healing process.

Of course, it wouldn't be an Elin Hilderbrand novel if it didn't take place near water. The setting of THE ISLAND is just essential to this book. The story takes place on the quaint Tuckernuck Island which is off of the coast of Nantucket. Ms. Hilderbrand's descriptions of Tuckernuck are incredibly detailed, and I loved how she captured the essence of the island. I absolutely had no problems with imagining this beautiful location. I wasn't familiar with Tuckernuck prior to this novel, but it certainly sounds like a true "get-away" (and probably not an ideal vacation spot for me.) The island can be reached by boat and doesn't have the normal amenities like hot water and electricity.

THE ISLAND would make a terrific discussion book. I wasn't able to find any discussion questions yet, but I'm sure that they will available in the near future. Some of the topics you might want to discuss include mother/daughter relationships, divorce, grief, depression, sibling rivalry, forgiveness, acceptance, and healing. This cast of characters in this novel is extremely interesting, in a large part because of their issues; and I think analyzing their behavior with some friends would be so much fun.

By the way, THE ISLAND is a Reagan Arthur book and counts towards the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge that Kathy/BermudaOnion and I are co-hosting. It's a very fun challenge and it's not too late to sign up!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

Nothing says summer better than an Elin Hilderbrand novel! I'm looking forward to reading this one! Great review!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Oh, I SO need to read this one. This is exactly what the doctor would order if I wanted help dragging myself out of the long line of very good but very disturbing books I've been reading lately! Great review!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

How ironic because I'm also listening to a book that involves Tuckernuck Island!

But really: Birdie? Chess? How do they come up with these names?!!!

Beth F said...

Oh yeah! I was planning on reading this one anyway for the RA challenge, but now I'm even more curious.

Kate said...

I've got to read something by Hilderbrand. Thanks for your review!

Brianna said...

Sounds good! I just finished reading Summer People by her and absoloutley loved it, must agree that her books are awesome for the summer!

Amused said...

Oh this book sounds great! I'll have to check it out!

Booksnyc said...

Her books do seem like perfect summer reads - I have a collection on my shelf for the beach this year!

No electricity or hot water - that might be too isolated for me too!

Jill said...

I just finished this...and I absolutely adored it. Great review!

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I posted my review today (and emailed the link to the RA challenge). I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed it.