Book: Up Island
Molly Redwine is a happy Southern lady, content in her position in life. She is a treasured wife, doting mother, serviceable (if not altogether satisfactory) daughter, head of various Atlanta charities… all in all, a very useful person. Except there’s this one thing… her doctor mentioned seeing her husband with their daughter the other day. Except their daughter lives out of state. Could he be having an affair? No. He couldn’t. Out of the question.
But, of course, he could, and he did, and he promptly asked for a divorce. Which sends Molly slightly off the deep end. If she wasn’t Tee Redwine’s wife, who the heck was she? With her son heading out to Arizona for college and her husband acting more and more like the most unbelievable ass on the planet, Molly begins to unravel. And when her overbearing, domineering, judgmental Southern belle of a mother dies suddenly, Molly is pushed beyond her limits and completely shuts down.
Rescued by her best friend, they head up to Martha’s Vineyard where her friend (well, her friend’s husband; after all, this is Southern/East Coast money we’re talking about. It’s always the husband, isn’t it?) has an old family house. Molly quickly falls in love with Martha’s Vineyard and sets about her task of resting up and figuring out what to do next. Things do not go entirely smoothly. She has a couple of nasty fights with her friend, and eventually learns from her lawyer that her rat of a husband has moved his girlfriend INTO HER HOUSE WHILE SHE’S GONE. Into. Her. House. The house he said she could keep. So. Advised by her lawyer to stay away for awhile (where would she go, anyway?) and feeling uncomfortable in her friend’s house, Molly answers a roadside ad about a small cabin, for let in exchange for caretaking and swan-feeding.
The landladies of the cabin are old and creaky and quirky, but the cabin is absolutely charming, and Molly is head-over-heels in love with it. But there’s a catch… her landlady’s son is in the second cabin on the property. Sick with cancer and disabled, he needs care too. But he is a grouchy old cuss, and doesn’t want help. Still… a small cabin in the Vineyard forest, with her own pond, two beautiful swans to care for, and no rent to worry about… of course she takes it.
I really enjoyed this book. It had all the elements I like in a good old-fashioned light-reading novel. A small cottage, a tiny bit of mystery, family drama, lots and lots of place-centered descriptions, the barest smidge of a romance, and a likable main character who’s got some work to do on herself. A classic co-dependent, Molly tries and tries to wrench herself out of the caretaker role, but this follows her wherever she goes. So she’s pretty much stuck being the caretaker whether she likes it or not, but can she finally start making some decisions about what she actually wants, rather than what everyone wants from her? She does, and it’s painful, and no one likes it, but I was cheering her on.
I loved reading about Martha’s Vineyard — the title, Up Island, refers to the old-timey part of the island, the natives, not the summer people. Molly finds that she fits in just find up island. Does she like it enough to stay put and leave Atlanta forever? Well, we don’t know… but I bet she does.
Like I said, I really enjoyed this book. All the characters were interesting, the relationships felt very real and there was enough tension and conflict to make it very interesting reading. I wanted to be Molly’s friend, but there was enough flaws to her character that she felt like a real, developing person, not just a heroine of the novel. And this novel was not all sweetness and light. It was actually very sad in many places, and nobody was actually very happy for most of the book. Still, I found it to be very entertaining, thoughtful, and completely enjoyable. I liked it so much I marched right out to the library and got myself another Anne Rivers Siddons book.
I’m not sure what to call this sort of book. It’s like, old-fashioned chick lit. Nobody shops, it’s set in the South and rural Martha’s Vineyard (not a big city), and the characters are consumed with real, tricky, real-life problems. I guess it’s just a family-drama novel, with a dash of mystery and romance. I like that the romance was secondary — possibly even tertiary. I’m not a huge fan of out-and-out romances.