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Osprey Island: A Novelby Thisbe Nissen
Synopses & Reviews
As summer begins on Osprey Island, preparations at the Lodge — the island's one and only hotel — are underway for the busy season. On maintenance and housekeeping there's Lance and Lorna Squire, Osprey locals and raging drinkers; and their irrepressible son, Squee. There are college boys to wait tables and Irish girls to clean rooms. And a few unusual returnees, too: Suzy Chizek, single mom and daughter of the Lodge's owners, who's looking for a parentally funded vacation; and Roddy Jacobs, another former local, who has come back after a mysterious twenty-year absence.
But when tragedy strikes, dark secrets explode, dividing the island community over the fate of a young boy suddenly more vulnerable to his violent father than ever. In the uniquely ephemeral atmosphere of a summer resort, Thisbe Nissen unfolds, with charecteristic warmth and charm, an ever-deepening story of lost loves and found romance, of loyalties and betrayals; and of lingering — sometimes fleeting — joy.
"After a story collection about the dilemmas of individuals (Out of the Girls' Room and into the Night) and a debut novel about the difficulties of a modern family (The Good People of New York), Nissen ambitiously takes on the weblike interrelations of an entire community — with imperfect success. The Lodge at Osprey Island has been around so long that, by 1988, the lives of entire families are linked to the resort, including that of alcoholic Lance Squire, whose wife dies suddenly in a fire after falling asleep with a burning cigarette. Havoc soon follows, as Lance becomes increasingly violent and the desire to protect his eight-year-old son, Squee, from abuse unifies the island's population, sparks a romance between the resort owner's daughter, Suzy Chizek, and maintenance worker Roddy Jacobs, and forces the revelation of old affairs, abortions, rape and draft dodging. Nissen's sharp snapshots of family dynamics and her frank depiction of sexuality are affecting, and her novel offers many fine, insightful moments. But the love story, pushed along by frequently adolescent dialogue, never becomes entirely convincing, and the book's plotting is labored, driven by the calculated disclosure of a host of dark secrets. Agent, Eric Simonoff. (July 1) Forecast: This doesn't have the cuteness quotient of Nissen's two previous books, and may be a tougher sell, but Nissen's fans will applaud her effort to extend her reach. 6-city author tour." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"There's a tragedy, a love story, and most memorably, an utterly transporting sense of place woven into Osprey Island. Pick it up, and feel like you've taken a holiday from the ordinary." Elle
"Despite flaws, this second from Nissen...shows that she can deliver a compelling and layered tale....[Nissen] sets off impressive fireworks....A perfectly satisfying if imperfect summertime read." Kirkus Reviews
"Nissen handles a complicated plot with skill and paints an especially poignant picture of what it means to go home again....It's eye-opening for the summer workers at the Lodge, revealing for the islanders, and a treat for the reader." The Washington Post
"Nissen's second novel...blows her short stories out of the water. Whereas in The Good People of New York, she took what had worked well in short form and then just made it longer, in Osprey Island she uses that extra space to develop rich, real characters." San Francisco Chronicle
"Nissen's characters are not quite clichés, but they always act according to their well-defined types, leaving us saddened but never surprised." The New Yorker
"Thisbe Nissen's latest novel will stir readers with its quiet evocation of life behind the scenes on Osprey Island....[Nissen's] precise descriptions and authentic dialogue dramatize...Osprey Island and its inhabitants." Miami Herald
"Nissen's knack for creating characters whose emotions and motivations ring true drives the novel and allows her to render indelible, well-crafted scenes of striking originality....[It] shines when its chapters most resemble a Nissen short story." BookReporter.com
"Nissen is the kind of writer who sends the reader compulsively in search of everything else she has written. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Finally, a perfect beach book with a literary bent....The story unfolds slowly, letting the reader take in Nissen's carefully crafted prose, but gains momentum at the end, when everything comes undone." New York Post
"Osprey Island doesn't reach the high bar Nissen's first novel set....
"Much like the great Joyce Carol Oates, Thisbe Nissen creates an exclusive world peopled with both the young and the old....Nissen's writing is calm and poetic." Baltimore City Paper
"The prose feels like it's been subjected to too many writers' workshops, and the characters are out of mind as soon as they're out of sight. The good news is that Nissen...presumably now also has her desk cleared for better books to come." Seattle Times
"Well-crafted...secrets abound in a place where family bonds often go beyond blood relations." The Chicago Tribune
From the author of The Good People of New York ("Fabulous, wonderfully satisfying....This is a voice I'd follow anywhere" — Elinor Lipman), an ambitious new novel about an isolated island community shaken by a devastating accident, as the densely entangled lives of the island's year-round residents unfold beyond the vacationers' view.
Few people ever leave the tight-knit community on Osprey Island, and fewer still come back. Suzy Chizek is one of those few: she returns in the summer of 1988 to help her father run the Lodge. Roddy Jacobs comes back, too, after a mysterious period of drifting in the wake of the Vietnam War. Separated since high school, Suzy and Roddy come together again, unsure whether they are in love or merely using the island, and each other, as an escape from the pressures and disappointments of mainland life. Just as the season begins, a tragic fire kills the Lodge's housekeeper, leaving her young son, Squee, alone with his alcoholic father. Squee's fate, and his need for protection, galvanizes the people of Osprey Island, and forces both Suzy and Roddy to a reckoning with the exigencies of island life and the allures and dangers of life beyond it. A luminous novel of summer from an exceptionally gifted young writer.
About the Author
Thisbe Nissen is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and she is a former James Michener Fellow. A native New Yorker, she now lives, writes, gardens, and collages in Iowa City, Iowa.
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