Little Island: A Novel. Katharine Britton. Penguin Group (USA). September 2013. Pb. ISBN #: 9780425266359.
Joy, Tamar and Roger, as well as other family and friends, arrive at the inn on Little Island, Maine for a memorial service for their late grandmother, who left very specific instructions for their part in the service, “Grace. Flowers. By the water. Have fun!” Their mother, Grace, and father, Gar know that this seems like an impossible series of requests, in fact nothing short of a miracle. For this family are all bearing a terrible grief over an accident that took one of their own years ago. Roger has his own added grief to add to the stockpile. But they aren’t morose characters at all; in fact they are like sparks of electricity that flash on each other. Grace wonders whether it will all implode or explode over this family gathering! Her efforts are noble and delicate throughout the entire family journey from the past to the present.
Joy’s son has just gone off to college and she’s got a hefty case of “empty nest syndrome” that brings her back to a very unstable part of her life. She wonders if she will revert to those behaviors or if she can find herself and a future. Tamar is a professional working woman whose husband is really the parent in control of raising their gorgeous, bubbly, imaginative twin daughters. Rather than being grateful, Tamar is riddled with guilt over her lack of maternal instinct and skills in caring for her lovely children. Roger’s got lots of spunk and one never knows what he will dream up next. But he’s unreliable and a former addict. Grace and Joy wonder if the clan being together will free him from his addictions or draw him deeper, especially since they find out that a long lost love of his is now divorced and free again.
Each segment of this visit brings new challenges and minor arguments; however, the marvelous part of this is that it’s not just barbs and battles but each character has a unique ability to reflect on what’s occurring externally and internally. That is the miracle that develops this story into an engaging, realistic and beautifully healing story. A secret will eventually be revealed and once it is, then honesty issues from everyone and the healing can truly begin. For guilt and blame lurk behind the battles until acceptance of each other’s role in the past gets aired. Forgive and forget? One can never forget but can learn to accept one’s truest self.
Each will realize they must dare to do one particular act or say one particular thing that will free not only the other person but the one doing the acting or speaking. Gar and Grace have raised terrific children who show their strengths and foibles endearing readers to recognize and perhaps identify with in similar or different ways!
Add to the story glorious descriptions of this island, the inn, favorite spots to picnic or swim, magnificent views and a lovely home crafted to welcome not only friends but tourists, and you have one delightful, memorable and well-crafted work of fiction which this reviewer highly recommends!