Summary and book reviews of These Granite Islands by Sarah Stonich

These Granite Islands

By Sarah Stonich

These Granite Islands
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2001,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2002,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

On her deathbed, Isobel—mother, wife, and hat maker—recalls the haunting and fateful summer of 1936 when her world was transformed. After her husband Victor takes their sons away for the summer to a remote island, Isobel meets Cathryn, a woman who will forever change the way she looks at life. An intimate story of friendship, a portrait of marriage, and a glimpse into the depths of loss, the events of this summer become the prism that refracts the essence of Isobel's life.

Chapter One
~1936~

The summer began with the island, and the island began with Christmas of the winter before. Church bells heralded Christmas, and so in a way rang in the existence of the island. Isobel remembered easily now, clear as the carillon resounding from the bell tower at Our Lady of the Lake on a snowy afternoon.

On Christmas Eve Victor came home, not with gifts for their children, but with three peppermint candy canes.

In the back porch he shed snow, his stomping punctuating Isobel's questions. "Presents?" He grinned, his tone was derisive, sly. "Bah, Isobel, any child can have presents on Christmas." He shrugged in through the kitchen door.

Isobel, baffled, sat back down. "Aren't our children any children?"

What could possibly make any child different from another on Christmas? If there was one universal emotion among an age, she thought, it would be the thrill of children everywhere upon waking Christmas morning. Christian children, anyway. What was he...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Cathryn and Isobel have a special, yet unusual, friendship. What is it that first draws them to each other? There are many disparities between the two women - why and how does their friendship work? How do they enrich each other's lives? In what ways does Isobel's friendship with Cathryn change her life?

  2. Isobel was not only complicit in Cathryn and Jack's affair; she helped them carry it out. Why did she do this even if she believed it was morally wrong?

  3. The summer of 1936 was clearly one of the defining moments in Isobel's life. In what ways did her marriage change after this summer? In what ways did her relationships with her children change? In what ways did she herself change?

  4. If the story were contemporary, Cathryn's ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Stonich's rich debut is a romance in the best sense of the word it's a tale of love and adventure set in a remote time..... Storich is a talented writer whose affecting novel is bound to create conversation--and to appeal to readers of serious women's fiction.

Kirkus Reviews

A carefully crafted first novel about doomed lovers in 1930s Minnesota.,.... Old-fashioned and earnest, with a gentle touch that's appealing.

Library Journal

Reminiscent of Anita Shreve's works in its lyrical blend of past and present, this first novel by an award-winning writer opens with a dying Isobel--her grasp on reality fading away--recalling a pivotal time in her past to her son.... Stonich perfectly captures the essence of a woman facing her death, and her portrait of Isobel's family is touching and honest. A wonderful read.

Author Blurb Colum McCann, author of This Side of Brightness and Everything in This Country Must
One of the joys of reading is coming across a book in which language is perfectly wedded to story. These Granite Islands is a marvelous first novel, confronting with humor, bravery, and pathos the manner in which we construct or destroy our various loves.

Reader Reviews
Karen Pfeil

I read this book over the holidays and let me say, it made my Christmas brighter! I was staying at my mother-in-law's house and had to keep finding a quiet corner so that I could dive back into the captivating story of Isabel and Catherine. Any ...   Read More

Nancy L. Bert

Hauntingly beautiful. One is enthralled from the very first. One of the best novels I have read in many a moon.

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