The Island of Doves. Kelly O’Connor McNees. Penguin Group (USA). April 2014. 384 pp. ISBN#: 9780425264584.
Susannah Frazer has no one but Edward, her husband. He’s a strict man, refusing to allow her friends or acquaintances. The only comfort she finds is working in her greenhouse, a warm, fragrant place where she can bury her hands in pots of rich earth and assist in allowing numerous flowers and plants to grow in beauty and fragrance beyond one’s imagination. Nurturing plants is salvation for Susannah against her physically abusive husband, that is until one night when he goes too far.
Susannah’s escape is accomplished through the help of the Catholic nuns that the rest of the people in this town near Buffalo despise. However, it seems the town’s people know everything about Susannah and her husband. A plan is devised to save Susannah and get her away from Edward before he kills her. The plan proceeds smoothly with one glitch that hopefully will not come back to haunt Susannah.
Magdalie is a fur trapper living on Mackinac Island. She holds secrets close to her vest about her two sisters. She was fortunate enough to have one great love in her late husband and her delight is her son, Jean-Henry, though she never expresses that love and devotion out of fear of losing him and being unable to survive such a loss. Magdalie is part French and part Odawa and she gets it about being an outsider, so much so that she has tried to save two other women, and now Susannah, from continuing in abusive relationships. A smidgen of history here rears its head, about the other outsiders, other Native American Indians, whom white settlers cheated out of both land and family.
Susannah finds a sanctuary in Magdalie’s immense home built with the love of her son. There Jean-Paul may find romance but not where the reader wrongfully assumes it will be captured. Susannah finds comfort until the time when she meets a most unexpected challenge, a healing experience with a touch of nightmarish reality that must be experienced for Susannah to truly mature into a fear-less person who knows with certainty, “I am.”
Challenges appear with tense moments and a gift appears in the form of a baby to unite two other characters. The Island of Doves is about a “caged bird” that needs to be freed, even if that release might wind up in death or totally awesome freedom of a new life! This is a finely plotted novel with numerous surprises, challenges, and an aura of mystery as well. The characters within these pages have a graceful appreciation of nature and human beings that carries and buffers the weights that troubles and just plain life throw far too often. Nicely done indeed!