Fog Island Mountains, by Michelle Bailat-Jones – Review

About the book, Fog Island Mountains Fog Island Mountains

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc. (November 4, 2014)

What if you could rewrite a tragedy? What if you could give grace to someone’s greatest mistake?

Huddled beneath the volcanoes of the Kirishima mountain range in southern Japan, also called the Fog Island Mountains, the inhabitants of small town Komachi are waiting for the biggest of the summer’s typhoons. South African expatriate Alec Chester has lived in Komachi for nearly forty years. Alec considers himself an ordinary man, with common troubles and mundane achievements until his doctor gives him a terminal cancer diagnosis and his wife, Kanae, disappears into the gathering storm. Kanae flees from the terrifying reality of Alec’s diagnosis, even going so far as to tell a childhood friend that she is already a widow. Her willful avoidance of the truth leads her to commit a grave infidelity, and only when Alec is suspected of checking himself out of the hospital to commit a quiet suicide does Kanae come home to face what it will mean to lose her husband.

Buy, read, and discuss Fog Island Mountains

Amazon | Books-a-Million | Tantor Media | Goodreads

About the author, Michelle Bailat-Jones Michelle Bailat-Jones

Michelle Bailat-Jones is a writer and translator. Her novel Fog Island Mountains won the Christopher Doheny Award from the Center for Fiction in New York City. She translated Charles Ferdinand Ramuz s 1927 Swiss classic Beauty on Earth. She is the reviews editor at the web journal Necessary Fiction, and her fiction, poetry, translations, and criticism have appeared in a number of journals, including the Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Quarterly Conversation, PANK, Spolia Mag, Two Serious Ladies, and the Atticus Review. Michelle lives in Switzerland.

My Thoughts

I’m not sure how to describe this novel. It’s very short – under 200 pages – but those pages are meaty and rich and vibrant and there is never a point at which I felt like I was being stiffed on pagecount. Instead I felt like I was instantly immersed in a world full of interesting characters, family drama, and the ups and downs of life, as lived in a small island village.

Stories involving cancer are either grim to the point of morbidity, or sappy to the point of nausea. This book was neither. Instead, it felt like a real family dealing with real problems – sibling rivalry, love, loss, fear of losing a spouse or a parent, set against the backdrop of this village full of friends and colleagues and other locals.

It’s also about belonging…interestingly, Alec, the ex-pat from South Africa, often feels more like he belongs on this tiny Japanese island than his family seems to…it makes everything so much more poignant, and so much more complex.

I enjoyed the quietness that ran through this novel, and I also enjoyed the convention of a third party relating the story. It was an interesting stylistic choice, but it made everything feel like we were seeing it through a soft-focus lens, and that really worked for the story Bailat-Jones was telling.

Goes well with green tea, miso soup, sashimi (but no octopus because the texture is gross) and tempura. Stereotypical, I know, but appropriate.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

Tuesday, November 4th: The Discerning Reader

Thursday, November 6th: BookNAround

Tuesday, November 11th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, November 13th: Bell, Book, & Candle

Monday, November 17th: Book Nerd

Thursday, November 20th: Too Fond

Monday, December 1st: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Tuesday, December 2nd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, December 3rd: Regular Rumination

Friday, December 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Monday, December 8th: Book Dilettante

Tuesday, December 9th: Olduvai Reads

Wednesday, December 10th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views


2 thoughts on “Fog Island Mountains, by Michelle Bailat-Jones – Review

  1. Pingback: Michelle Bailat-Jones, author of Fog Island Mountains, on tour November/December 2014 | TLC Book Tours

  2. There seems like so much more to this story than could possibly fit into 200 pages. I can’t wait to see how the author pulls it all together in such a short space!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

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