The Island

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Even though this is our September selection - I read it in July, which was the perfect time to read this book. It is a GREAT summer read. The style is light although the subjects can be a bit contemplative or heavy they don't come across that way. This book is a must have for a beach bag.

On a scale of 1 - 5:

Sex: 2

Religion: 1

Gruesome: 2

Suspense: 2

Morality: 3

Sex - is mentioned in a matter of fact way. Couples have sex, that's what couples do - whether they are yet married or not. But the sex is not described in detail. It may be contemplated and overheard but this is far from a trashy romance novel.

Religion - I don't think it was mentioned at all. Maybe there was a mention of a family being Jewish - but I'm not sure. A wedding was being planned for a backyard and there was no mention of religion entering into the plans. Since the main action takes place on a private island for a month and there is likely no church on the island, the characters never bother to go to the mainland for a Sunday service.

Gruesome - A hiking accident is mentioned with very little detail.

Suspense - The only suspenseful thing was how the relationship were going to play out. It was enough suspense to engage me and push me to read faster through the last hundred pages.

Morality - All the characters seem like nice people - they could be your co-worker. But they all have ethical dilemmas and some handle them better than others. One character is in love with someone of the same sex. One character has a quasi-affair.

The story has four main characters: Birdie Cousins, her grown daughters Mary Francesca (Chess) and Elizabeth Tate (Tate) and Birdie's sister India. There are not chapters but we read simultaneously the story of these four women broken into smaller parts with the name of who we are about to read more about. We read the stories of their lost loves and deepest secrets that they are afraid to tell each other while they spend four weeks in a house on Tuckernuck Island (off the coast of Nantucket) in a very "simple" (primitive) life style. I spent a lot of time wondering why anyone would call cold showers and limited electricity - a vacation, especially people with money.

It is a nice enough story. Around p. 275 I started wondering how it was going to work out for one lead and one supporting character (no spoilers here) which made it "suspenseful" and I found myself wanting to sneak off to The Island more frequently than I had been. You know it is a captivating book when you say your daily prayers and you almost include a prayer request for a character.

Discussion Questions

Did you think it was okay that Hank got involved with Birdie while his wife was still alive?

"Birdie was aware that her greatest flaw as a mother was not holding the children fully accountable for their actions." (p. 19) What is your greatest flaw as a mother?

Why do you think the male love interests were most often referred to with first and last names? (Michael Morgan, Barrett Lee)

"It was the world's greatest privilege to be a mother. But God knows, it was a punishment as well." (p. 41) In what ways is being a mother a privilege and a punishment?

Was the climbing-related death an accident? What did you believe at first? When did your opinion change?

Who did you think Barrett Lee would get together with and why?

What did you think about Birdie going out at 2:00 a.m. to call Hank? Why did you think Hank didn't answer?

"I don't know if there is anything sadder than a mother who knows she has to leave her babies behind, but if there is I don't want to see it." (p. 254) Is there?

Hilderbrand relies on the word "said" instead of varying the words used to indicate dialogue. What effect does this have? Was it more obvious in print or in audio?

Who was the character you wanted to read the most about? The least?

"Birdie wondered about other couples who had divorced and then remarried. Had they been drawn back to their marriages out of loneliness, because they could find nothing better? Had they been drawn back out of habit? Or had they been drawn together as if they were two new people with new things to discover and appreciate about each other?" (p. 386) What do you think causes similar re-unions?

In the last fifty pages, what surprised you most?

Theme Ideas

Serve "caipirinhas and Brazilian tapas" (p. 32) as would have been served at the rehearsal dinner.

Serve wine and palmiers (p. 22) on a tray like Birdie was serving Hank when Michael Morgan called.

Serve Tuscan Lemon Chicken, "Chess's favorite" (p. 37-38) and rhubarb pie.

Serve Perrier with ice and lime (p. 136) like Birdie was going to have after the first time she called Grant from Tuckernuck.

Serve Tate's picnic: Mozzerella and Tomato sandwiches with Pesto, Potato Chips, Plums, Raspberries & Blueberries, Brownies and Lemonade.

Take the hostess a pink gerbera daisy in a pot wrapped in pink foil (p. 159) like Lula took to India.

Serve what India served Lula (p. 160): Salad of greens, figs, toasted pine nuts & herbed goat cheese with vinaigrette, fettuccine with truffle butter, cream and pecorino cheese, homemade bread, and plum crumble with amaretto ice cream.

Serve Veuve Clicquot champagne (p. 222) in honor of Chess.

Have a clam bake and roast marshmallows.

Playlist (for current bands I chose the most recent album prior to 2012 when the book was written:

  • Mozart (p. 13) like Birdie listened to while waiting for her first date with Hank

  • Pachelbel's Canon (p. 39) like Birdie played for Chess's bath

  • Bruce Springsteen (Tate's favorite)

  • Death Cab for Cutie (p. 77) when Chess was getting ready to go out on the night she met Michael & Nick

  • R.E.M. (p. 78) one of Michael Morgan's favorite bands

  • Coldplay (p. 78) a favorite band of both Michael Morgan and Chess

  • Natalie Merchant (p. 78) one of Chess's favorite singers

  • The Strokes (p. 204) because Nick's band, "Diplomatic Immunity" opened for them

  • Fleetwood Mac - Songbird (p. 241), the song India sang at the cookout

  • Carole King (p. 274), some of the "good music" played at India's dinner party

  • Paul Simon (p. 274), some of the "good music" played at India's dinner party

  • Beatles (p. 274), some of the "good music" played at India's dinner party

  • Van Morrison (p. 274), the music India cleaned up to after the dinner party

  • Kings of Leon (p. 282), a band also represented by the company that represented Diplomatic Immunity

  • The Fray (p. 282), a band also represented by the company that represented Diplomatic Immunity