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Osprey Islandby Thisbe Nissen
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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.)
"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'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
"There's a tragedy, a love story, and, most memorably, an utterly transporting sense of place woven into Osprey Island." Elle
From the author of The Good People of New York ("Fabulous . . . Wonderfully satisfying . . . This is a voice I'd follow anywhere" --Elinor Lipman), a book about summer, that most incandescent and evanescent season — about lazy days, fleeting love, and tempers that flare in the heat.
Very few people ever leave the tight-knit community of year-rounders on Osprey Island, and fewer yet come back. Suzy Chizek does, though, with her young daughter in tow; a single mother, she comes home in the summer of 1988 to help her father run his hotel, the Lodge. Roddy Jacobs returns to work at the Lodge, too, after a mysterious period of drifting in the wake of the Vietnam War. Separated since high school, Suzy and Roddy cannot help but come together, unsure whether they are in love or simply using each other, and the Island, as an escape from the pressures and disappointments of mainland life.
Just before the start of the season, the Lodge's troubled housekeeper dies in a suspicious fire, shattering the Island's equilibrium. Lorna had protected her young son, affectionately nicknamed Squee, from the rages of her alcoholic husband, Lance. When Squee, in his grief and panic, runs away from both his father's ramshackle home and his grandparents, he seeks out Roddy and Suzy, whom he implicitly trusts, bringing the tentative lovers into conflict with volatile Lance. Roddy's mother, the controversial and independent Eden, seems to know more Island secrets than anyone. She loves Squee with motherly intensity, but her righteous defense of him may prove more dangerous than helpful.
Can the community save Squee from his father, the very person who is meant to take care of him? Can a town that is fueled by secrets expose itself to responsibility? Is it brave or foolish to leave the familiarity of Osprey Island?
In the uniquely ephemeral atmosphere of a summer resort, Thisbe Nissen unfolds an ever-deepening story of ancient loyalties and betrayals, while showcasing the qualities that readers have come to expect from her: exuberant wit, fierce intelligence, and unforgettable warmth and compassion. An ambitious, richly satisfying novel of indelible power and beauty.
About the Author
Thisbe Nissen is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a former James Michener Fellow. Her stories have appeared in Story and Seventeen. A native New Yorker, she now lives in Iowa.
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