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Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

In the company of Station Eleven and California, Marrow Island uses two tense natural disasters to ask tough questions about our choices—large and small.

Title: Marrow Island
Author: Alexis M. Smith
Publish Date: June 7, 2016, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Source: Library

Publisher’s Description: Twenty years ago Lucie Bowen left Marrow Island; along with her mother, she fled the aftermath of an earthquake that compromised the local refinery, killing her father and ravaging the island’s environment. Now, Lucie’s childhood friend Kate is living within a mysterious group called Marrow Colony—a community that claims to be “ministering to the Earth.” There have been remarkable changes to the land at the colony’s homestead. Lucie’s experience as a journalist tells her there’s more to the Colony—and their charismatic leader– than they want her to know, and that the astonishing success of their environmental remediation has come at great cost to the Colonists themselves. As she uncovers their secrets and methods, will Lucie endanger more than their mission? What price will she pay for the truth?

In the company of Station Eleven and California, Marrow Island uses two tense natural disasters to ask tough questions about our choices—large and small. A second novel from a bookseller whose sleeper-hit debut was praised by Karen Russell as “haunted, joyful, beautiful….” it promises to capture and captivate new readers even as it thrills her many existing fans.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Agent Annie says…

What an interesting and thought provoking-book this was. I really enjoyed the story, and the main character, Lucie, was fascinating. I can’t quite give this book 5 stars because the ending left me unsatisfied. Since I finished the book right after watching the movie Beatriz at Dinner, I was doubly unsatisfied. Both left you wondering, “Well, now what?”

Marrow Island does, however, have many deep themes to explore. I particularly like the book’s environmental emphasis and the mystery that surrounds what happened to the main character. More importantly, I like the exploration of the nature of relationships with childhood friends and relationships one forms as an adult. I was drawn in by the friendship of Lucie and Katie. I particularly like the author’s explanation, in the Q & A at the end of the book, that the relationship between the two of them was to be visceral, murky, and a little bit twisted. There’s no doubt that the relationship is exactly that. I also like the tension Smith is able to create toward the end of the book, as the reader is drawn into Lucie’s ability to rationalize making such a poor decision as to return to an area that is under threat of a wildfire just to prove to herself that she’s not going crazy.

The author writes incredibly well and is able to create such vivid images. A simple example is when Lucie visits a care facility, and the highly polished floors make it difficult for the residents to move quickly. Lucie thinks, “I wonder if this is another trap, like the shiny floors, intended to steal a few minutes here and there from life by slowing a body down.”

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to book groups since there is so much to discuss.

Other recommendations…

If you liked this book, you might also enjoy: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, or Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian.


The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille

From the legendary #1 New York Times bestselling author of Plum Island and Night Fall, Nelson DeMille’s blistering new novel features an exciting new character—US Army combat veteran Daniel “Mac” MacCormick, now a charter boat captain, who is about to set sail on his most dangerous cruise.

Title: The Cuban Affair
Author: Nelson DeMille
Series: Mac MacCormick, 01
Publish Date: September 19, 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Source: Library

Publisher’s DescriptionDaniel Graham MacCormick—Mac for short—seems to have a pretty good life. At age thirty-five, he’s living in Key West, owner of a forty-two-foot charter fishing boat, The Maine. Mac served five years in the Army as an infantry officer with two tours in Afghanistan. He returned with the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, scars that don’t tan, and a boat with a big bank loan. Truth be told, Mac’s finances are more than a little shaky.

One day, Mac is sitting in the famous Green Parrot Bar in Key West, contemplating his life, and waiting for Carlos, a hotshot Miami lawyer heavily involved with anti-Castro groups. Carlos wants to hire Mac and The Maine for a ten-day fishing tournament to Cuba at the standard rate, but Mac suspects there is more to this and turns it down. The price then goes up to two million dollars, and Mac agrees to hear the deal, and meet Carlos’s clients—a beautiful Cuban-American woman named Sara Ortega, and a mysterious older Cuban exile, Eduardo Valazquez.

What Mac learns is that there is sixty million American dollars hidden in Cuba by Sara’s grandfather when he fled Castro’s revolution. With the “Cuban Thaw” underway between Havana and Washington, Carlos, Eduardo, and Sara know it’s only a matter of time before someone finds the stash—by accident or on purpose. And Mac knows if he accepts this job, he’ll walk away rich…or not at all.

Brilliantly written, with his signature humor, fascinating authenticity from his research trip to Cuba, and heart-pounding pace, Nelson DeMille is a true master of the genre.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Agent Annie says…

With the introduction of “Mac” (DeMille’s new main character), I am looking forward to reading more about him. Mac’s personality, which includes the gallows humor of many military veterans, made me laugh out loud, particularly the things he didn’t say, but just thought. I enjoyed the caper that he and Jack, his first mate, went on. DeMille has done a wonderful job introducing the lackadaisical life of a tourist boat captain in Key West, but also the more serious life of the citizens of Cuba. It’s obvious DeMille has done his research, and I am not inclined to sign up for a “goodwill” trip anytime soon.

I also thought the character, Mr. Neville, was particularly tongue-in-cheek and spoke to DeMille’s own ability to poke fun at himself and authors in general. You will enjoy reading about Mr. Neville, a fellow tourist to Cuba, who is researching for a book he is writing. I had to grin though, because there was still a “hot” wife for the fictional, oafish author.

I give this book 4 stars and it will be a great beach read this summer or for a lazy afternoon by the fire this winter.

Other recommendations…

If you liked this book, you might enjoy anything by Carl Hiassen. My favorites have been Double Whammy, Skin Tight, and Native Tongue.

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