In his latest novel, this prolific man of letters focuses on one of his most engaging subjects: the inner lives of women. The story begins off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1888, as highborn Marantha Waters, ill with consumption, makes an arduous ocean journey to an untamed and windy island for the “virginal air” her husband insists will cure her. She is thrown into the role of sheep rancher’s wife, testing her very notion of herself as a genteel sophisticate. Many years later, it is headstrong Edith, Marantha’s adopted daughter, who tries to escape both the confines of the island and the family misery. Then, at the onset of the Great Depression, the island welcomes Elise—a happy bride, all strength to her husband’s fragility. In this ruminative novel, Boyle devotes meticulous attention to the unforgiving weather and the challenges of sheer survival, to the mute compromises of marriage and to the unspoken experience of all women who rage, endure and prevail. —Susanna Sonnenberg
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