3.2 35
by Anne Rivers Siddons

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Anny Butler is a caretaker, a nurturer, first for her own brothers and sisters, and then as a director of an agency devoted to the welfare of children. What she has never had is a real family. That changes when she meets and marries Lewis Aiken, an exuberant surgeon fifteen years older than Anny. When they marry, she finds her family—not a traditional one,

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Anny Butler is a caretaker, a nurturer, first for her own brothers and sisters, and then as a director of an agency devoted to the welfare of children. What she has never had is a real family. That changes when she meets and marries Lewis Aiken, an exuberant surgeon fifteen years older than Anny. When they marry, she finds her family—not a traditional one, but a group of Charleston childhood friends who are inseparable, who are one another's surrogate family. They are called the Scrubs, and they all, in some way, have the common cord of family.

Instantly upon meeting them at the old beach house on Sullivan's Island, which they co-own, Anny knows that she has found home and family. They vow that, when the time comes, they will find a place where they can live together by the sea.

Bad things begin to happen—a hurricane, a fire, deaths—but still the remaining Scrubs cling together. They are watched over and bolstered by Camilla Curry, the heart and core of their group, always the healer. Anny herself allows Camilla to enfold and to care for her. It is the first time she has felt this kind of love and support.

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Editorial Reviews

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“One of her best novels to date. . . . A beautifully detailed evocation of privileged lives.”
Memphis Commercial Appeal
“Readers [will] linger over Islands.”
Publishers Weekly
Middle-aged readers especially will warm to Siddons's 15th novel, in which a group of old friends play together, age together and endure the vicissitudes of fate. Returning to the Carolina low country where she is most at home, Siddons explores the mystique of an elite social strata whose members are held together by bloodlines, loyalty and tradition, and by the love of their city, Charleston, and the offshore islands-Edisto and Sullivan's-where they spend their leisure time. Newcomer Anny Butler, the director of a Charleston philanthropic social services agency, is accepted into the close-knit group, who call themselves the Scrubs, when she marries surgeon Lewis Aiken. Thereafter, the novel records the idyllic lives of beautiful people who have wealth, intelligence, breeding and a passion for hunting dogs. Siddons dwells lovingly on details of landscape and atmosphere, flora and fauna, home decoration, and food specialties and the bistros where they are served. Everything is picturesque to the nth degree, somewhat like a Thomas Kincaid painting. Relentlessly chirpy dialogue moves the plot along, while various illnesses and accidents take their toll on once happy couples. Lush overwriting sets the tone: one character "shone like a beacon in the great gilded room, and people flocked around her as if to a fire"; later, she is perceived as "thrumming with a kind of palpable radiance... you could almost see the dancing particles of light around her." When Siddons shows that nothing is what it seems, the revelation is almost inevitable. Yet she cannot be surpassed in evoking a kind of life peculiar to the South, with its emphasis on grace, good manners and stoic endurance. Her fans will find Siddons's narrative charisma intact and blooming. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The islands of the title are on the South Carolina shore near Charleston, and Siddons's descriptions of this beautiful area are absorbing and maybe a little bit enchanting. With Anny as narrator, the story follows the lives of a group of men and women with lifelong ties to the area. Together the friends pledge to be there to support and care for each other for all their lives, and they do so through some terrible events, including Hurricane Hugo, fire, and death. The descriptions of the land, the homes, the food, and the atmosphere of the Charleston area are lovingly rendered. Siddons's huge number of fans will probably be happy to stay with the tale even though there is little drama until very near the end. The performance of reader Dana Ivey is wonderful, bearing the story along with a slight Southern accent and giving a distinct voice to each character. Recommended for public libraries with light fiction collections.-Barbara Valle, El Paso P.L., TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Old South sensibilities, sparkling Charleston, and a group of aging socialites-all merge with an unshakable love for the land. At 35, Anny Butler is semi-committed to singlehood, happy with her job helping disadvantaged children (she's had plenty of experience, having raised her siblings while her mother drank away the days). That is, until she meets Dr. Lewis Aiken. Though both are Charleston natives, they may as well have come from separate worlds: Lewis had a boyhood of beach houses, a youth of cotillions, marriage to a beautiful, fussy wife, and weekends at the yachting club. Now divorced, popular Lewis sweeps Anny off her feet, and soon the new Mrs. Aiken meets the Scrubs. Lewis, Henry, Camilla, and Lila have been friends since their blue-blooded childhood; now nearing 50, they share (spouses come along) the beach house that they've been visiting all their lives. The Scrubs (they all have some connection to medicine) welcome Anny, and the years pass in an idyllic camaraderie (particularly poignant are Anny's reveries about the Carolina Low Country). Wealthy and pleased with themselves, the eight flit from the shared beach house to their city mansions and their old plantation homes, while occasionally doing some good charitable work. This tour of the lifestyles of the rich and unfamous holds a certain prurient interest, and, thankfully, Siddons's talent makes down-to-earth Anny's narrative likable enough despite strangely unsympathetic people (they're snobs, with antiquated ideas about race). As the years progress, tragedy threatens the unity of the group as they begin succumbing to both natural and unnatural deaths. But the indomitable (if not very nice) Camilla holds them togetheruntil the end, when the tale switches to a burning southern gothic replete with insanity, a faked illness, secret diaries, unrequited passion, and murder by fire. The inconsistency in tone at the close is disappointing, though fans will welcome yet one more exploration of American southern life a la Siddons (Nora, Nora, 2000, etc.). Agent: Virginia Barber/William Morris

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HarperCollins Publishers
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4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.99(d)

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