Many thanks to Audiobook Jukebox and AudioGo for sharing this title with the Literary Hoarders. I’m afraid, however, that Island Apart was not the book for me.
From Goodreads: Claire Doheney, recovering from a serious illness, agrees to house-sit in an oceanfront mansion on Chappaquiddick island in Martha’s Vineyard. The New York book editor hopes to find solace, strength, and sufficient calm to finish her biography of the iconoclastic psychotherapist, Wilhelm Reich. The last thing she expects to find is love.
Then she meets a mysterious man the locals call the Hermit. No one knows his real name or where he lives. To their mutual surprise, Claire and the stranger discover that they share a passion for cooking that soon sparks something more.
But Claire’s new friend has a terrible secret that threatens to drive them apart forever. The clock is ticking. Can Claire let love into her life once more before it’s too late?
Why did I think I would like this?
If you tossed a Harlequin Romance into a blender with a Martha’s Vineyard cookbook, you’d wind up with Island Apart. This is a book that tries to propel a serious plot, but instead comes across as a trite story that describes its food with more passion than its people. I hate writing negative reviews, but I would be remiss if I did not admit that I was extremely anxious for this to end. There’s only so much eye-rolling a person can stand.
A book about a woman who fights cancer and falls in love with a local eccentric should be anything but shallow, but the book was peppered with so many unnecessary details of affluence that they distracted from any effort to be profound. The purr of “twin Bosch dishwashers;” slipping a CD into a “Bang & Olufsen;” turning on the “Bose” sound system; choosing “Polo” jeans; donning a pair of impossibly expensive boots (sorry, the brand name is escaping me); wine labels with rare names and years; cooking classes taken abroad; endless referrals to Jaguars, BMWs…. for heaven’s sake, enough. We understand.
The cast of characters was commonplace. Betrayed protagonist, philandering soon to be ex-husband, chirpy best friend, unfair boss, rebellious teenage daughter, comic-relief client, and mysterious love interest. Will the Hermit’s secret be overcome in time for Claire to permit herself to truly fall in love? I won’t give it away, but I will say that predictability is the least of this novel’s worries. In a book that addresses everything from breast cancer to trust issues, it was a surprise to find so many one-dimensional characters. That’s not to say that there was no effort behind them, but they just didn’t click. Their dialogue was also hopelessly simplistic, with far too many “ouch!” and “shit!” responses. It often bordered on juvenile.
The descriptions of the cooking, however, were the book’s high points. Each time Claire or the Hermit created some edible piece of art, the detail had the power to made the reader downright hungry. The very first time someone whipped up a dish in Island Apart, it quickly became evident that the true love story was with the food. If as much texture and temptation were offered by the characters of this novel, then it truly would have been something to behold.
This audiobook was read by Susan Boyce, and she offered a very good narration. Her range was effective, and her enthusiasm was evident. She also embodied the voice of Claire extremely well, and could easily switch between each of the characters.
Alas, Island Apart could not decide what it wanted to be: a romance, or an ode to haute cuisine. Because it tried to be both, it wound up being neither. I wish very much that I had liked it more.