Sunday, August 18, 2013

ARC REVIEW: LITTLE ISLAND by Katharine Britton

Title: Little Island
Author: Katharine Britton
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Genre: Family fiction
Reviewed by: Margitte
Source: NetGalley
Margitte’s smiley rating: 5/5


By the water
Have fun! 

These are Joy’s grandmother’s last words—left behind on a note. A note that Joy’s mother, Grace, has interpreted as instructions for her memorial service. And so, the far-flung clan will gather at their inn on Little Island, Maine, to honor her.

Joy can’t help dreading the weekend. Twenty years ago, a tragedy nearly destroyed the family—and still defines them. Joy, Grace, her father Gar, and twins Roger and Tamar all have their parts to play. And now Joy, facing an empty nest and a nebulous future, feels more vulnerable than ever to the dangerous currents running through her family.

But this time, Joy will discover that there is more than pain and heartbreak that binds them together, when a few simple words lift the fog and reveal what truly matters.


"When you build a house, one wrong measurement can send the whole thing slightly off. It will stand okay, but doorjambs and walls aren't even, so doors don't stay shut, and pictures never hang straight." 

There was so much blood the day of the accident in which Abigail and Bonnie died. Enough of it to flow for years in the memories of everyone who wanted to be loved, accepted and protected in the Little family. The accident impacted tragically on everyone's life. The shocking secrets would slowly drain the life out of them until only emotional apathy and expressionless, lifeless souls would remain. 

The misunderstandings and hurt flowing from the secrets would leave every member of the family stranded on their own emotional islands. Lonely, uninhabited places. Some would feel trapped, others would feel protected and safe. It all depended on how each member was able to process the truth.

Every first weekend after Labor Day, this event would be commemorated. However, this year, the twentieth anniversary, would be different. It would also be the memorial service of grandma Joan. Her last note to her daughter stated :"
Grace, flowers, by the water, have fun!"

The true meaning of those words would only become clear when the family gathered at their family Inn on Little island, Maine for the weekend. Nobody was looking forward to spend time together. They all dreaded each other's company.

Grace's children were like boxers, she thought, dancing around the ring, taking swings, dodging, tantalizing the crowd. Eventually someone would land a blow. Grace wanted peace tonight, harmony, fun!"

Grace felt the familiar pressure building inside her little family, but, just as when she heard a storm warning, she could gather candles and kerosene, lanterns, fill jugs and bathtubs with water, secure windows and lawn furniture. She could do nothing to prevent the coming storm."

The story had me hooked from the beginning. It did not take long to witness the skill the author used to link the past to the present and build the future in the same narrative through different voices without confusing the living daylights out of the reader. All the different types of mothers in the family were introduced and highlighted. The relationship between fathers and sons would be dissected to the bare bones. The siblings, Joy, Tamar and Roger(twins), would finally acknowledge the person they see in their own mirrors.

Isn't it true that we all determine the fate of our children by what we do, not by what we say? However, It would take two unknown aunts to finally explain to Grace and her family, what Joan meant by her last note. But a thunderstorm first had to unleash itself over the family before the true meaning of family, honor, love, protection and commitment could be revealed. The events are fast-moving. Every single word in the book plays a pivotal role in leading up to the dramatic conclusion.

The book resonated so deeply in my own life, it is difficult to compact the impact into a few words on paper. At times it was difficult to continue reading. I was emotionally ripped apart. 

The plot was brilliantly constructed. The message strong. Their own little islands would be forced to release them through the final events. One by one they would find their way back to the only sanctuary they ever loved. Little island will once again become home. The family finally could burst out in laughter when a bear, a table filled with food, drenched guests on overturned chairs, and a thunderstorm, splashed grand finale all over the lonely memories of the accident, as well as honor grandmother Jane's legacy of 'Grace, flowers, by the water, have fun!". The laughter brought the healing.

I absolutely and highly recommend this book to everyone. Excellent in every literary way possible! It is not a gut-destroying, dark book at all. It is also not a book to be easily forgotten.


Little Island by Katharine Britton has 7 reviews on Goodreads. Read it here.



Katharine has a Master's degree in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and has taught at The Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth and at Colby Sawyer College. Her screenplay, Goodbye Don't Mean Gone, was a Moondance Film Festival winner and a finalist in the New England Women in Film and Television contest. Katharine is a member of the League of Vermont Writers and The New Hampshire Writer's Project. 

When not at her desk, Katharine can often be found in her Norwich garden, waging a non-toxic war against the slugs, snails, deer, woodchucks, chipmunks, moles, voles, and beetles with whom she shares her yard. Katharine's defense consists mainly of hand-wringing, after-the-fact.


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