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These Granite Islands [Kindle Edition]

Sarah Stonich
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Stonich's rich debut is a romance in the best sense of the word: it's a tale of love and adventure set in a remote time. From her hospital bed, 99-year-old Isobel Howard recalls her unexpected friendship with Cathryn Malley, a childless, Chicago-born heiress who shunned her family, attended art school and married an Irishman with no pedigree. During the summer of 1936, the women find themselves alone in Cypress, a mining town on the edge of a glacier-fed lake in Minnesota. Isobel is the wife of a tailor, mother of three young children and a milliner by training whose husband, Victor, has taken their two boys away to an island he has purchased--an extravagance that has become a sore point in their marriage. Left behind with her quiet daughter, Louisa, Isobel revives her interest in hatmaking, and Cathryn helps her. During their shared days, Cathryn introduces Isobel to literature, art and a more cosmopolitan view of life, ultimately making Isobel an accomplice to the affair she is having with a local forest ranger. But there is a darker side to this idyll, and as the elderly Isobel reflects on the ensuing events, it is clear that this summer has exacted a heavy price. Sticklers for logic may question some turns of the story, and Stonich's prose, despite an eye for exquisite detail, occasionally succumbs to flights of lyrical fancy. But once past the unsteady opening chapters, the novel gains its footing and opens up into atmospherically rendered, carefully observed scenes. Stonich unfurls a complex, many-layered and suspenseful story; and, like Susan Minot and Anita Shreve, she handles flashbacks and contemporary details with equal precision. (Mar. 7)Forecast: Storich is a talented writer whose affecting novel is bound to create conversation--and to appeal to readers of serious women's fiction. With the push promised by the publisher (including a 3-city author tour), it could have legs.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Isobel Howard is 99 and has outlived her husband and two of her three children. As she lays dying in a St. Paul hospital, she has time to reflect on her long life: her childhood, her courtship and marriage, and her career as a milliner. She also remembers the summer of 1936 when wealthy, beautiful, sophisticated Cathryn Malley came to the northern Minnesota mining town. The most exotic friend Isobel had ever had, Cathryn was also deeply troubled. When Cathryn's passionate love affair with a local man ended in tragedy, Isobel was forced to examine her own standards of family, love, and fidelity. Isobel tells the story to her youngest son, thereby unburdening herself of the secrets of more than 60 years. Her tale interweaves threads from past and present. Narrator Melissa Hughes deftly varies Isobel's voice so the listener can keep the layers straight. A good choice for popular collections.
Nann Blaine Hilyard, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 517 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0316815586
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: WordStalkers (April 21 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #445,564 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars What a moving book! Nov. 18 2002
This book is written in my favorite writing style ~~ it jumps from the present to the past and back to the present with a fluid style ~~ which makes it easy for the reader to know where she is at in the book. Stonich is a very talented writer who writes with passion and feelings as well as very powerful descriptive style. You, the reader, is right there with Isobel as she remembers her past as she lies there on her deathbed. You can see her memories as vividly as if you are right there with her ~~ Stonich has a imaginative writing style that not very writers can capture.
While on her deathbed, Isobel talks to her youngest and surviving child about the summer of 1936 when a young couple has disappeared and caused a scandal in the small town where they resided. What Thomas, her youngest son, didn't know is that Isobel knew the couple in question. She was often their look-out for them as they hide from the woman's husband during the afternoons of a hot summer. Isobel became very close to Kathryn even though she questioned Kathyrn's infidelity with Jack, a man who wanted to enter priesthood at one time.
This novel explores the relationships between husband and wife, between friends, lovers, children and parents. It tackles the question of infidelity, love, death and aging. Stonich has a wonderful way of drawing you in ~~ and leave you feeling like you've just returned from a lovely but hard journey. She makes you think and question what you're reading ~~ in a delightful way. This isn't a trivial novel ~~ but it's not hard on the eyes either. This isn't a forgettable book. I recommend this to all readers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rich Narrative July 24 2002
"These Granite Islands"
is like a beautiful patched quilt...every piece unique, intricate, not sewn in a particular order, but displayed perfectly at the proper times.
Isobel is on her deathbed reflecting her long, sometimes tragic life. Fragmented memories of her husband, Victor, her children, Louisa and Thomas, and her dear friend Cathryn. This story is really about Isobel's relationship with Cathryn. Their friendship is extroidinary. But how far should a friend be willing to go?
Isobel finds out.

She becomes the "Sentinal" while Cathryn engages in an adulterous, lustful love affair. It was almost as if the three of them were making love/.
I still don't understand why Isobel was willing to be the scape-goat. Maybe unconciously she wasn't content in her marriage, needed excitement, something fresh, naughty.
Anyhow, she seems to live vicariously through Cathryn, who has introduced her to poetry, books, nature, and some sort of unknown fullfillment.
Sarah Stonich brings us directly to Isobel's bedside... but she doesn't just leave us sitting. She brings us into an unforgettable world of relationships and powerful human emotion.
She brought me into a place I wanted to stay, inspite of everything.
The stillness of water is felt everywhere, even in death. I feel it now... Still.
"What images return.
...This face, less clear and clearer.
The pulse in the arm
less strong and stronger-
What granite islands
towards my timbers.
And woodthrush calling
through fog...
---These Granite Islands---
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Water serves as a powerful metaphor for isolation, death and conquering personal fears. The searing heat of summer, the frozen fingers of Fate in winter, all form the images of a story lived against Nature's immutable canvas. At the end of a long, often lonely life, Isobel Howard replays each chapter behind failing sensibilities, as her last living child, Thomas, holds his own vigil at her bedside.
The most defining attachments in Isobel's lifetime are her marriage to Victor Howard and a summer friendship in 1936 with Cathryn Malley, who has come to the mining town in Minnesota with her husband, who travels often on business. That this short acquaintance so impresses Isobel's remaining years, says much about the repression of the times, as Isobel vicariously experiences Cathryn's infidelity, drawn to the adventure and unpredictability of Cathryn's inclinations. In reality, Cathryn suffers from a yet undiagnosed mental illness, and remains untreated, as do many whose errant behavior is labeled wildly inappropriate at that time.
Cathryn tumbles into Isobel's world as a funny, generous, helpful surprise while the more stolid Isobel struggles to fill the summer with an enterprise of her own, as Victor and her two young sons camp on a nearby island he purchased for his family's enjoyment. Isobel remains at home with her young daughter, hurt that Victor has failed to comprehend her innate dread of water, although she's never mentioned this fear to him.
When Cathryn becomes emeshed in an affair with Jack, an island man, Isobel is both attracted and repulsed by their unbridled passion, and shamefully implicit; Isobel inevitably conquers her own fear of water, paddling daily in a canoe as she serves as sentry, prepared to alert the lovers should Liam return unexpectedly.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Author has potential, but this book disappoints Nov. 15 2001
By A Customer
Where was the editor of this novel? The first 150 pages required too much effort. I stayed with the novel because Stonich was able to hook me with her perspective, but she does not show the skill necessary to manage the complex and unwieldy structure on which she hangs her story. For example, time shifts are poorly executed and frequently confusing; chapter divisions often have no discernable logic behind them; characters are introduced, disappear, then reappear 50 pages later; the motivations of her central character do not gain clarity until too late in the novel.
Even worse, the writing is noticeable. The author's fondness for the overuse of adjectives and adverbs seems self-conscious and pretentious, and there is rare evidence that she has an ear for phrasing and pacing. Even the speech of her characters is often implausible.
Still, I did read the entire book. It becomes appreciably better for much of the second half, sufficiently so that the writing does retreat from center stage. Although Stonich has some interesting insights and manages a few phrases of subtlety and beauty, I never developed more than momentary interest in Isobel--a horrible fate for the character on which a novel depends.
With radical reworking and cutting to a length of 150-200 pages, These Granite Islands probably would have held my attention. I think this author has potential, so I hope her next effort gets the editing it deserves.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A friend in need
Isobel seems to admire Cathrine's flair for the dramatic and considers her own life drab by comparison. Read more
Published on June 29 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing waste of time . . .
After reading all of the glowing editorial and reader reviews of this novel, I had to ask my self, "Did I read the same book? Read more
Published on Feb. 9 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving and powerful prose
Stonich's novel is a touching story of the way people invest in each other, the things we are willing to put into a relationship and what we get out of it. Read more
Published on Dec 20 2002 by "alidalivia"
4.0 out of 5 stars Storytelling With Style
For me, Sarah Stonich succeeded at exhibiting her talents as a master storyteller, even though breaking a few rules to do so. Read more
Published on Nov. 21 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Portraits of Relationships
Sarah Stonich writes with sensitivity and poise of the reflections of a dying woman on her life and relationships. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Like going home,back in time... the voices of my grandma's
Sarah Stonich has written a magnificent book, taking your hand by the 2nd page and your heart throughout... her words are a cadence on the pages that were my youth and childhood. Read more
Published on July 23 2002 by Carol Wagner
4.0 out of 5 stars Confronted with humour, bravery, and pathos.
Sarah Stonich has written a family story, a relationships story, a 'women's' story in "These Granite Islands," some would say of loyalties, desires and emotional renewal, but... Read more
Published on March 19 2002 by Dr. James N. Browne (
5.0 out of 5 stars These Granite Islands
Stonich's "These Granite Islands" carried me to a time when the independence I take for granted was only a dream for women. Read more
Published on Nov. 8 2001 by ""
4.0 out of 5 stars Stellar debut!
I read this book in one sitting. The author's stunning use of the language grabbed me and simply would not let me go until I learned what really happened to Isobel Howard and her... Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2001 by Terry Mathews
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