These Granite Islands

Written by Sarah Stonich
Review by Nan Curnutt

It’s 1999 and Isobel Howard is 99 years old. She knows she is dying, and she is taking one last look back at the fateful summer of 1936 that dramatically altered the lives of many of those she loved.

In 1936, Isobel and her daughter are left at home when the men of the family leave for a remote island for the summer. When Isobel is setting up shop as a hat maker, she meets Cathryn Malley. Cathryn’s uninhibited enjoyment of life is only one of the many reasons the more reticent Isobel feels so drawn to her. They quickly become inseparable friends. Isobel discovers Cathryn is having an affair. Although initially disapproving, Isobel eventually overcomes her resistance, and even more amazingly her fear of water, to guard Cathryn and her lover from discovery.

As the 99-year-old Isobel looks back at this tumultuous period of her life, she discovers how many changes were wrought by the choices she and Cathryn made that summer.

This is a haunting novel of life and death, love and loss. Misunderstandings and revelations both take their toll on the people directly and indirectly involved in the events of that summer.

Sarah Stonich writes enticingly lyrical prose in this debut novel. It is both beautiful and haunting. However, she has trouble sustaining the powerful images she creates. Her stream of consciousness writing style, although appropriate for a dying woman looking back on her life, sometimes obscures the plot. Still, the images she creates with language are too powerful to pass up. She is an author to watch.