On a tiny, desolate, windswept island off the coast of Southern California, two families, one in the 1880s and one in the 1930s, come to start new lives and pursue dreams of self-reliance and freedom. Their extraordinary stories, full of struggle and hope, are the subject of T. C. Boyles haunting new novel.
Thirty-eight-year-old Marantha Waters arrives on San Miguel on New Years Day 1888 to restore her failing health. Joined by her husband, a stubborn, driven Civil War veteran who will take over the operation of the sheep ranch on the island, Marantha strives to persevere in the face of the hardships, some anticipated and some not, of living in such brutal isolation. Two years later their adopted teenage daughter, Edith, an aspiring actress, will exploit every opportunity to escape the captivity her father has imposed on her.
Time closes in on them all and as the new century approaches, the ranch stands untenanted. And then in March 1930, Elise Lester, a librarian from New York City, settles on San Miguel with her husband, Herbie, a World War I veteran full of manic energy. As the years go on they find a measure of fulfillment and serenity; Elise gives birth to two daughters, and the family even achieves a celebrity of sorts. But will the peace and beauty of the island see them through the impending war as it had seen them through the Depression?
Rendered in Boyles accomplished, assured voice, with great period detail and utterly memorable characters, this is a moving and dramatic work from one of Americas most talented and inventive storytellers.
"As ever, Boyles prose is vivid and precise, and he imbues his subjects with wonderful complexity. The perils and pleasures of island living, the limits to natural resources, and the echoes of war all provide ample grist for his mill...An episodic structure slows the momentum slightly, but its a richly rewarding read nonetheless." - Booklist
"Ripe with exhaustively researched period detail, Boyles epic saga of struggle, loss, and resilience (after When the Killings Done) tackles Pacific pioneer history with literary verve...The novel is primarily a history of the land itself, unchanging despite its various visitors and residents, and as beautiful, imperfect, and unrelenting as Boyles characters." - Publishers Weekly
"In this absorbing work, Boyle does an excellent job of describing the desperation and desolation of life on the island. Readers can almost feel the cold and damp seeping into their bones." - Library Journal
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Rated of 5
Diane S. San Miguel I love the clarity of this author's prose, his Drop City is one of my favorite books. This one did not disappoint as I loved the history behind the story. The first half of the novel was rather grim and bleak, the island and the house barely habitable. I always know an author has done a great job when I can feel the dirt, the wind, the rain and the mud, the seclusion and isolation and all that these people experienced. Could picture the rain entering my bedroom from a leaky ceiling, soaking all the bedclothes. Would have liked to have known what eventually happened to Edith but since that part of the story ended on a positive note I decided thing must have turned out well. Looking forward to seeing what this author tackles next.
Growing up, T. Coraghessan Boyle did not aspire to be a writer. He attended State
University of New York as a music student but ended up as a history and English
major. He says, "I went there to be a music major but found I really couldn't
hack that at the age of 17 .... I just started to read outside my classes --
literature and history. I wound up being a history and English major; when I
wandered into a creative writing class as a junior, I realized that writing was
what I could do." After college he started teaching, in part to
avoid getting drafted into the Vietnam War, and generally wandered through the next few years of his life - until he published a story in the North American Review and applied to the University
of Iowa Writer's...
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