Saturday, November 10, 2018
Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan
Mure is a tiny island off the coast of the north of Scotland. As the story opens, Bramble, the retired sheepdog that belongs to the MacKenzies, makes his way around, a perfect introduction to the center of town. Flora MacKenzie is the owner and baker at Seaside Kitchen. She's in her thirties, and returned home from London a year earlier. She fell back in love with the island, and with the lawyer, Joel Binder. That's Flora's problem. She's pregnant, and afraid to tell Joel because he was a foster child who never knew a loving family, but only abuse.
Flora's best friend is Lorna MacLeod, headmistress of the primary school. She longs for a man who became her best friend, but has distanced himself since discovering how much she loves him. Saif Hassan is one of the two doctors on the island. He's a refugee from Syria, living on Mure with his two young sons. But, his wife may be alive. He doesn't know, and he can't move on with his life.
Colgan's moving novel is about love, loss, and moving on in so many ways. Joel's employer is Colton Rogers, a wealthy American who moved to the island with the intention of changing it. Instead, he fell in love and married Flora's brother, Fintan. But, Colton is dying of cancer. When Tripp, Colton's brother from Texas shows up in the village, he only comes to ask for money for the family.
Everyone is going to change in the course of the few weeks before Christmas. The newcomers, Colton, Joel, Saif,Tripp, and even some Russian sailors, change the islanders and island life. Every encounter affects the life. Even those chance meetings are important to the world.
Christmas on the Island is a loving, emotional story of life. How do strangers change us? The world moves on, whether it's because of a death or anger or love. Although everyone doesn't have a happy ending in the book, the stories and their conclusions are appropriate. That's why Colgan's book is so moving. It's about realistic people, trying to deal with day-to-day life while sometimes fumbling with their feelings and relationships.
Looking for a story set at Christmas, without the syrupy feelings of so many Christmas stories? Jenny Colgan's Christmas on the Islands, beginning with a dog's tour of Mure, might just be it. Or, if the setting and Flora's story appeals to you, you might be smarter than me and start with the first in the series, The Cafe by the Sea.
Jenny Colgan's website is www.jennycolgan.com
Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan. William Morrow, 2018. ISBN 9780062869203 (hardcover), 340p.
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