Back-of-the-box blurb: Four women – a mother, her sister, two grown daughters – head to Tuckernuck for a retreat, hoping to escape their troubles. Intead, they find only drama, secrets, and life-changing revelations.
She Is Too Fond of Books’ review: The Island is definitely a “women’s book”; the four main characters are women, sisters from two generations. Although men figure in the plot (lovers - living and dead – are the relationships which get the most play), it is the women of the Tate family whose perspectives we see as they share the telling of the tale.
Birdie Tate Cousins, the matriarch (maybe she’s too young to be called a “matriarch,” as she’s in her mid-50s; but, she definitely rules the roost on Tuckernuck and at her home in New Canaan), wrestles with a new relationship after her divorce from her daughters’ father. The daughters, Chess and Tate, have been successful in their chosen businesses, but have failed at personal relationships. India, Birdie’s sister, is looking for permission to live life to its fullest, while her actions show that she still mourns the husband she lost many years ago.
The setting of Tuckernuck island seems like a fantasy; I was charmed to discover that it truly exists – a privately owned island off Nantucket, rustic and remote. This remoteness (in the novel, supplies are brought in daily via a caretaker’s boat – fresh ice, groceries and household items) forces a closeness among them women. With no telephone, television, or Internet to distract them, they must either confront their issues or actively hide from them. In much of the novel, the four are successful at hiding from them – I felt at times like the telltale heart was beating, “Just talk about it! Open up!” I wanted to shout at the characters.
I actually did a fair bit of shouting (in my head, of course). I didn’t care for any of the women; that is, they were great characters sketches, but I wouldn’t want any of them for my friend (with the exception, perhaps, of Aunt India; I found her eccentricities to be the most honest traits of the group). They were wealthy, spoiled women used to getting what they wanted (while patting themselves on the back that they weren’t stuck up like some of the Nantucket summer residents). It often turned out that what they wanted was to win subtle passive-aggressive competitions between the pairs of siblings.
The narration by Denise Hicks was pleasant enough, but perhaps a bit too perky for me. One silly thing that bothered me (and probably should have been caught in production) was that she pronounced the name of Chatham (a town on the Cape) as “Chath-am” instead of “Chat-um” (with a hard /th/); a non-issue to most listeners, but I caught it.
In all, although bits of the plot and character descriptions (and the setting, I did love the setting) were interesting, The Island didn’t grab me with a ‘what happens next’ urgency. I’d recommend it for a light summer-time read (or listen). In contrast, Hilderbrand’s The Castaways, really captured me with interesting/likeable/believable characters I could connect with.
For another view of The Island, here’s Bookfan Mary’s review. She said listening to it was “like taking a vacation,” and she enjoyed the narrator’s “lilting voice.”