On The Island

ontheisland“The pilot’s name was Mick, but he died before we hit the water.” – On The Island, Tracey Garvis-Graves

When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day. T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family – and a stack of overdue assignments – instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island.

Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

I read this in one day, sitting on the beach in Florida. It couldn’t have been a better day. Tracey Garvis-Graves didn’t hold back on anything. She answered all the questions in your mind that some authors may have shied away from just because it would have been easier. No piece of the story was left without an answer or conclusion.

I was hesitant to start this because of the age difference between the main characters but the narrative is so beautifully done, you soon forget their ages and you’re living on the island with them. You can see, feel, and hear everything along with them and at some point they are “just TJ” and Anna, giving each other strength to continue to live and hope every day.

Nothing was predictable or easy about this, and I appreciated that Tracey didn’t end the book at a certain point (a point at which many authors would have been tempted to write a wrap-up one chapter conclusion). The reality of Anna and TJ’s experience is dealt with from beginning to true end, and I so appreciated that.

As unbelievable as the story could have been, it was believable, to the point that I feel like these people truly exist in the world.

This is a book I won’t soon forget and will re-read.

K

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