Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade (September 3, 2013)
By the water
These are Grace’s mother’s last words – left behind on a note. A note that Grace interprets as instructions for her memorial service. And so her far-flung clan will gather at their inn on Little Island, Maine, to honor her.
Twenty years ago, a tragedy nearly destroyed the Little family – and still defines them. Grace, her husband Gar, and their three grown children, Joy, Roger and Tamar each played a role in what transpired. But this weekend, they will discover that there is more than pain and heartbreak that binds their family together, when a few simple words lift the fog and reveal what truly matters.
Buy. Read. Discuss.
Katharine Britton has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College, and a Master’s in Education from the University of Vermont. 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, New England Independent Booksellers Association, and The New Hampshire Writer’s Project. She has taught at Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth, Colby-Sawyer College, and The Writer’s Center in White River Junction.
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.
Katharine’s first novel Her Sister’s Shadow was published in 2011 by Berkley Books (Penguin, USA). Little Island is her second novel. She is currently working on another manuscript.
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Maybe it’s because I was practically born on the beach, and grew up with sand and salt on my skin and in my hair, but I have a special fondness for “beach books.” I don’t mean the fluffy, light reading that people bring to the beach. I mean, well, I guess you could call them “contemporary coastals” – books that take place on or near the coast, and typically include a beach house, cottage, or the like.
Little Island takes place in a coastal inn, a family-run business on the water, which, in my personal categorization system, makes it a “beach book.” But like most of the books of this type, it’s actually a gripping drama that centers on the concepts of family, love, obligation, and belonging.
Some of the novel is told in first person, mainly those chapters from Joy’s point of view. I’m not sure if this makes Joy an unreliable narrator, but it does mean that I felt more connected to Joy. It is through her eyes that I experienced the rest of the story.
The setup is classic: everyone gathers for a memorial service. The result is anything but typical, and we see a fabulous collection of relationships – Joy’s parents, aging but still active, Joy’s twin siblings who are younger than she is, but were always the ones to exclude her, Joy’s twin nieces who are less than thrilled to be in their mother’s care during the novel, and of course Joy herself, because even though she has a husband and has just sent her son off to college, her real journey is one of self.
I think that’s why I responded to this novel so strongly. I mean, author Katharine Britton has given us an amazing setting (seriously, I want to live at this inn), three-dimensional characters, and a rich story with background characters who may not show up much but are nevertheless integral to the plot, but – for me – this was about the journey Joy has – the one we women all have at one time or another in our lives – to finding herself.
I was strongly reminded by the lines Samantha speaks near the end of the Sex and the City movie: “I’ve been in a relationship with myself for fifty years and that’s the one I need to work on.”
If you’re looking for fast-paced action or kinky sex, this is not the book for you. If, however, you want an absorbing read, a character-driven story, and a level of detail that allows you to smell the salt air, you should click over to your favorite bookseller’s website, and buy Little Island right now. You won’t regret it.
Goes well with fried clams and cold beer.