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Deceptively calm

San Miguel

Title: San Miguel
By: T. Coraghessan Boyle

San Miguel Island is the westernmost of eight Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. This book starts off with a deceptively calm historic setting. Then, true to form, T.C. Boyle’s characters begin to develop stronger personalities that hint at future conflicts. Perhaps because this book is based on two real families that lived in isolation on San Miguel Island, the Waters family in the 1880s and the Lester family in the 1930s, the author doesn’t go to his usual fictional extremes. As a result, I found the novel charming most of the time, and alarming only some of the time. It’s also a fascinating description of homestead life, very well-written, and the text is ideal for reading aloud. The story is narrated in the third person, always from the point of view of the women. The characters’ blindness to the environmental consequences of their struggle to make a life all alone on the island allows Boyle to convey the environmental moral of the story without getting heavy-handed.

Barbara Caruso (whose credits include The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather and two books by Margaret Atwood) does a great job with the 1880s speech. She sounds equally at home in the 1930s. She interprets the moods and inner turmoil of Boyle’s characters so well, I wanted to jump into the action and save them from what was coming.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction, audiobook

Posted on Nov. 29, 2014 at 12:45 a.m.

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