From the New York Times best-selling author of The Women, a historical novel about three women’s lives on a California island.
On a tiny, desolate, windswept island off the coast of Southern California, two families, one in the 1880s and one in the 1930s, come to start new lives and pursue dreams of self-reliance and freedom. Their extraordinary stories, full of struggle and hope, are the subject of T. C. Boyle’s haunting new novel.
Thirty-eight-year-old Marantha Waters arrives on San Miguel on New Year’s Day 1888 to restore her failing health. Joined by her husband, a stubborn, driven Civil War veteran who will take over the operation of the sheep ranch on the island, Marantha strives to persevere in the face of the hardships, some anticipated and some not, of living in such brutal isolation. Two years later their adopted teenage daughter, Edith, an aspiring actress, will exploit every opportunity to escape the captivity her father has imposed on her. Time closes in on them all and as the new century approaches, the ranch stands untenanted.
And then in March 1930, Elise Lester, a librarian from New York City, settles on San Miguel with her husband, Herbie, a World War I veteran full of manic energy. As the years go on they find a measure of fulfillment and serenity; Elise gives birth to two daughters, and the family even achieves a celebrity of sorts. But will the peace and beauty of the island see them through the impending war as it had seen them through the Depression?
Rendered in Boyle’s accomplished, assured voice, with great period detail and utterly memorable characters, this is a moving and dramatic work from one of America’s most talented and inventive storytellers.
©2012 T.C. Boyle (P)2012 Penguin
I am a lifelong lover of books. I got my degree in English & worked in the publishing business for many years. Now I work with wildlife.
The idea of "historical fiction" has never appealed to me much, so that pretty much leaves T.C. Boyle out. However I went to a couple of his readings, and found him to be such a charming, humorous, intelligent guy that I really wanted to read one of his books. SAN MIGUEL sounded good, so it was my first T.C. Boyle read. I enjoyed this book enormously and felt that the performance was part of the reason why. Barbara Caruso did such a good job. The characters, location, and story of the two families living on the island of San Miguel were interesting and held my attention. This may have been my first book by T.C. Boyle, but it definitely won't be my last. Now I want to move on to WHEN THE KILLING'S DONE, which takes place in the same location.
It’s been a while since the last time I read anything by Boyle. There was a period when I read a lot of him, but then I got caught up with new authors and well, you know how it goes. San Miguel had been on my wishlist for while so I just went for it and despite the mixed reviews it’s received, I enjoyed my time with it. I think I’ve said this before of Boyle, that he works better when he doesn’t have to drive a plot. When he can just tell a tale of what happens next with some really interesting characters, living in interesting places, doing interesting things. Even routine things he can make interesting and that’s what he does here. It reminded me strongly of Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose because of the setting and spirits of the women he wrote about. Some wanted to be where they were and pursuing their hard-scrabble lives on San Miguel. One didn’t and it was the combination of those separate personalities that reminded me of Susan Ward and her duality.
Some reviews comment that the stories are too loosely connected, but I found it wasn’t necessary for me to enjoy them and especially liked when Jimmy started up a story about Edith and her time on the island. It didn’t feel forced since you had to take the Jimmy in Elise’s story as the same one in Edith and Marantha’s. Plus it finished her tale, which had ended so abruptly. A few other characters pop up as well, to thread the stories, but each one focuses on the inhabitants and even more closely on the women. Yes, Captain Waters is a force on the island, and Herbie just skewers you from an emotional perspective, but really these are stories of women and their respective states of convalescence, confinement and contentment. Well done and well told.
This told a story of 2 families who lived on San Miguel. It would have been nice to have them come together somehow. It was just a story with no kind of purpose.
I would have linked the first family somehow with the second.
I like T.C. Boyle, but Barbara Caruso is not a good reader for this book.
No. Drop City was much better.
Way too dramatic
The stories in both time frames dragged on and on.
Yes, because he has written some interesting things in his life.
She does a good job with many voices.
I would have cut the whole book down to half its size.
Her delivery had peaks and valleys, and it was hard to understand words in the valley - i.e., she swallowed words. Her emoting forced us to strain to hear.
Nothing happens in this book and the characters are not very interesting. Unless you are planning a trip to (uninhabited) San Miguel, there's no reason to read this.
It was very negative, nothing but doom and gloom from the main character for enough of the book to make me give up. And not enough story to make me care what happened.
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