Tuesday, June 10, 2014
On The Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves
Published July 2012 by Penguin Group
Source: my copy purchased for my Nook
Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher desperately in need of adventure. Worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a relationship that’s going nowhere, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring sixteen-year-old T.J.
T.J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. His cancer is in remission and he wants to get back to his normal life. But his parents are insisting he spend the summer in the Maldives catching up on all the school he missed last year.
Anna and T.J. board a private plane headed to the Callahan’s summer home, and as they fly over the Maldives’ twelve hundred islands, the unthinkable happens. Their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover that they’re stranded on an uninhabited island.
At first, their only thought is survival. But as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.
The Omaha Booksworms read this book as our June selection along with our former leader's (Mari of Bookworm With A View) New Jersey book club and we all joined in discussing the book with Garvis-Graves last night.
On The Island is a work of women's fiction that combines both the lighter side of a summer beach romance and the weightier matter of survival against all odds. Garvis-Graves strands her characters on an uncharted island for years, but, unlike Tom Hanks' character in Cast Away, she makes life easier for them by ensuring that just the right things wash up onto shore and putting them on an island where someone who brought lumbar and tools has previously lived. For the story arc to work the way Garvis-Graves wanted it to, Anna and T. J. needed to be on the island for a number of years and these little tricks made it possible. But more than once I found myself being annoyed by some of what transpired because of it. Razors, shampoo and soap were one thing but lacy undergarments were another. Perhaps Garvis-Graves thought we never would have bought that these two might end up in a relationship if they were still staying attractive enough not to repulse each other?
I don't think I'm giving anything away here when I say that as the mother of sons who haven't been out of their teens long, I will admit that I had a hard time getting over the idea of Anna and T. J. being any thing more than two people stranded on an island. A part of my brain kept thinking that it would be inevitable but oh that Mom part of my brain just kept thinking "ewwww."
It might be a spoiler to say much more about the book other than to tell you that I enjoyed it much more as it progressed and the ramifications of Anna's and T. J.'s relationship had to be dealt with. So often I'm wishing for more judicious editing to shorten a book. In this one, I was thinking an editor might have suggested some cuts earlier in the book to allow a fuller story toward the end. It would have tightened everything up for me.
Don't take my word only on this book; most readers seem to really enjoy it. The Goodreads rating for On The Island is 4.16; The Goldfinch, by contrast, has only a 3.98 rating. It seems that if you pick up this book because it sounds like it will appeal to you, you'll really enjoy it.