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These Granite Islands

These Granite Islands

4.6 21
by Sarah Stonich

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On her deathbed, Isobel - hat maker, wife, and mother - recalls the haunting and fateful summer of 1936 when her world was transformed. After her husband Victor takes their sons away for the summer to a remote island, Isobel meets Cathryn, a woman who will forever change the way she looks at life. An intimate story of friendship, a portrait of marriage, and a glimpse


On her deathbed, Isobel - hat maker, wife, and mother - recalls the haunting and fateful summer of 1936 when her world was transformed. After her husband Victor takes their sons away for the summer to a remote island, Isobel meets Cathryn, a woman who will forever change the way she looks at life. An intimate story of friendship, a portrait of marriage, and a glimpse into the depths of loss, the events of this summer become the prism that refracts the essence of Isobel's life. This is a gorgeous debut, a true literary page-turner.

Editorial Reviews

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In this beautifully written novel set in the small town of Cypress, Minnesota, Isobel, a former milliner, now an older woman on her deathbed, recalls the summer of 1936 -- a pivotal season that forever changed her life. That summer her husband, Victor, bought a remote island where he took their two young sons to vacation while Isobel slaved at home in her hat shop with her daughter, Louisa. When a striking, enigmatic woman named Cathryn enters the shop, she and Isobel forge a fast friendship, sharing intimacies and deep secrets. As Isobel says, "A person need only walk over your threshold and your life can become forever changed, lived under a different sky." Stonich weaves her story seamlessly between the present -- the elderly Isobel's hospital bed in the wake of a stroke -- and the past, where she acted as a lookout for Cathryn and her lover, Jack, a handsome forest ranger. But Cathryn and Jack not only hide but disappear that summer, culminating in a fiery mystery. Reflecting on that summer and beyond, Isobel examines her own tragic losses -- losses even more devastating than that of her friendship with Cathryn, forcing Isobel to view her life, her marriage, and her own choices in a new light. These Granite Islands is a thoroughly accessible literary debut -- Stonich's lovely prose is speckled with atmospheric detail, revealing an affecting tale of love, loss, and unusual friendship. (Spring 2001 Selection)
Minneapolis Star Tribune
...brisk dialogue and an assured plot...an appealing story about one woman's transformation...
Publishers Weekly
Stonich's rich debut is a romance in the best sense of the word...opens up into atmospherically r<%END%>ered, carefully observed scenes...a complex, many-layered and suspenseful story...
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A carefully crafted first novel about doomed lovers in 1930s Minnesota. Isobel, a hatmaker, marries a tailor, Victor Howard, and their little shop prospers, even during the Great Depression. Victor is coarse but cheerful, unlike his introverted wife, who cares patiently for their three children and dreams of trying her hand at millinery again. But who would buy beautiful hats in the small town of Cypress? No one, she's sure—until glamorous Cathryn Malley from Chicago sweeps through the shop's door. Isobel and Cathryn become friends, even though the shy hatmaker remains in awe of her loquacious—and lonely—new friend. Cathryn's husband, Liam Malley, is a mining engineer who's away for weeks on end, traveling through Minnesota's bleak Iron Range, and Isobel's husband happens to be away as well, vacationing with their children on a tiny lake island he bought for a song. On their own for the summer, the women confide in each other and make hats according to Cathryn's whims and big-city notions of style. Until, that is, Cathryn falls for the singular charms of Jack Reese, a forest ranger and brooding romantic with a getaway island of his own. Their passionate affair both fascinates and troubles Isobel, who frequently helps them, serving as go-between or allaying Liam Malley's inevitable suspicions, keeping her silence even when Liam explains that Cathryn is mentally unstable and suicidal. And then the lovers vanish after a forest fire burns Jack's cabin to the ground, and no bodies are ever found. Did Liam kill his wayward wife and her paramour? Or did Jack hurt Cathryn somehow, as his last letter seemed to imply? Did they simply run away? Old-fashioned and earnest, with a gentle touch that's appealing.

Product Details

Back Bay Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Back Bay Paperback Edition
Product dimensions:
5.48(w) x 8.22(h) x 0.85(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter one
The summer began with the island, and the island began with Christmas of the winter before. Church bells heralded Christmas, and so in a way rang in the existence of the island. Isobel remembered easily now, clear as the carillon resounding from the bell tower at Our Lady of the Lake on a snowy afternoon.
On Christmas Eve Victor came home, not with gifts for their children, but with three peppermint candy canes.
In the back porch he shed snow, his stomping punctuating Isobel's questions. "Presents?" He grinned, his tone was derisive, sly. "Bah, Isobel, any child can have presents on Christmas." He shrugged in through the kitchen door.
Isobel, baffled, sat back down. "Aren't our children any children?"
What could possibly make any child different from another on Christmas? If there was one universal emotion among an age, she thought, it would be the thrill of children everywhere upon waking Christmas morning. Christian children, anyway. What was he up to?
"Don't tease, Victor. What can you mean, you've bought no presents?"
He leaned to her hair and said in a conspiratorial tone, "Oh, Izzy, I've bought better than presents."
Isobel could smell the alcohol on him. She shot out of her chair. "What can you be thinking, coming home drunk on Christmas Eve!"
Victor patted her into a sitting position and splayed himself into a chair. "Good God, Isobel, can't a man have one drink on a holiday? It's Christmas, for Christ's sake!" He chuckled at his phrase and repeated it, tapping a knuckle on the table. "Christmas, for Christ's sake."
"Oh, I see. Drunk and blasphemous. Victor! What about–"
"The presents?" He pulled a tight roll of documents from the inner pocket of his coat and laid them on the table before her. "Right here." He spread out a deed and a legal description. He took a small photograph from his breast pocket and slapped it down.
From what Isobel could tell with a cursory glance at the papers, he had bought land.
"Land? Victor, I don't understand."
"It's an island, Izzy, a gorgeous place."
Isobel squinted at a purchase agreement and gasped. Fifteen hundred dollars! As much as she'd made in the last year doing seamstress work. Victor's signature sprawled next to the date, spelled out formally, December twenty-fourth, nineteen hundred and thirty-five. Ink from the official seal of the county land office bled into the description. Five and one half acres, island parcel, tract 78, Lake Cypress. Isobel picked up the photo. Five and a half acres. It looked like nothing. It looked like exactly what it was, a mound of pine-studded granite jutting from a plane of black water. As she looked at the picture, the question burned her throat.
"You didn't ask me?"
Victor offered empty palms in response.
In sixteen years of marriage they had always been together in every decision, no matter how trivial. Just that morning they had lightheartedly debated whether to have creamed potatoes or roasted for Christmas Eve dinner. Victor wouldn't so much as place an advertisement for the tailor shop without Isobel's approval. If new machinery was purchased, it was only after the two had put their heads together and both had concluded that model X was better. Whether the living room walls would be papered in pine green or olive was worth days of discussion; deciding on a name for a baby could and sometimes did take weeks. But in the end they agreed. Always. Together. Isobel glared at the snapshot. The kitchen was quiet save for the distant bells from Our Lady of the Lake, ringing in Christmas Eve.
As the last chime faded, Isobel rose from her chair and slapped her husband's face in one clean motion. His head jerked neatly sideways and stopped abruptly, as if he meant suddenly to examine the wall.
In the echoing silence she looked at her palm as if it were a stranger's. Shaking, she hung her apron on a hook. Calling upstairs for Louisa to come down, she turned to the sink and waited, counting the footfalls, the seconds it took for her daughter to bounce down the back steps. The door squealed open.
"Yes, Momma?"
In a barely controlled voice, she instructed Louisa to baste the turkey at intervals, check the yams, and set the dining room table. The girl nodded curiously at her mother, sneaking a sidelong glance at her father, still facing away in his strange posture.
Isobel turned on her heel and pushed out of the room, away from Victor. She imagined him rubbing his cheek and staring at the swinging kitchen door until it bumped to stillness behind her.
She climbed the stairs, rasping knuckles along the dark beadboard, veering into the room she shared with Victor. Snapping on the light, she pawed through her underwear drawer until she found the envelope of money she'd saved from her dressmaking. She carefully pulled bills from the thin packet. Victor's smug face loomed before her and she stuffed three of the dollars back into the envelope.
She was grateful Thomas and Henry were out of range. Earlier she'd seen their snow-blurred movements from the kitchen window. All afternoon they'd struggled over an igloo at the edge of the creek, their caps cardinal bright against bare trees and colorless blocks of icy snow.
Downstairs, she pushed her felt cloche over her eyes, shouldered the porch door open against a low drift, and aimed herself downtown to stretch her bit of savings into a decent Christmas for her family.
Main Street was nearly deserted, most shops already closed for the holiday. Isobel blinked through fine lashings of snow and plucked her way through ankle-deep drifts. Each time her foot came down, slush shot up to spatter her stockings and hem.
She saw a figure move toward her and she pulled her scarf up high, but not fast enough to avoid Mrs. Sima's eye. Sima's butcher shop was next to Victor's tailor shop. Mrs. Sima trotted closer, trailing a wake of snow, her voice ripping through the curtain of white.
"Isobel Howard!"
She took refuge in her hat, pretending she hadn't heard.
"Mrs. Howard!"
As Isobel turned she managed a surprised look, suddenly glad for pelting snow that explained away the red sting in her eyes.
"If you're looking for Victor, dear, he's left the shop... oh, hours ago now." Mrs. Sima rubbed her arms like a channel swimmer. "About noon, I'd say." Powdery snow rose from her fur coat. When Isobel only smiled, Mrs. Sima cocked her head sideways. "You haven't lost him, have you?"
Isobel blinked, her smile cast in place. "I don't think so, Mavis. Why do you ask? Had you thought I would?"
After a beat, the woman chortled. "Ha! Ha, well...."
"Well, isn't this a perfect Christmas Eve? Made to order!"
"Yes." Isobel nodded at the doorway of the mercantile. Large, garish boxes were gift-wrapped and propped in a tower against a display window coated from the inside with false snow.
"Here's my stop, Mavis."
"Last-minute shopping? Goodness, I had everything bought and wrapped by Thanksgiving."
Isobel put her hand on the door. "Always prepared, Mrs. Sima, just like a Boy Scout."
"Ha. You tell your family for me to have a very merry–"
"Yes, merry. Same to yours." Isobel slipped into the door, but not before hearing Mavis muttering into her fur, "Butter wouldn't melt..."
If the children were disappointed the next morning at the tin banks, adventure books, and sketch pads she had found on picked-over shelves at the mercantile and the dime store, they didn't show it. Nor did they display any false enthusiasm. Receiving their perfunctory kisses and lukewarm thanks, Isobel fought tears. She was tired, had been up late cleaning the kitchen and wrapping gifts. She had restlessly tossed all night next to Victor's snoring bulk. Still wearing her bathrobe and slippers, she sank into an armchair. Victor took down the roll of documents tied to the tree with a silver ribbon.
The deed to the island thrilled the boys to awe as Victor described the island's rocky ledges, the copses of aspen, the mysterious peat bog that could suck your foot under if you were careless, the precipices of granite, a small beach where every stone was the perfect skipping stone broken from the slope of shale that stood like a giant's foot in the shallows of the north end. The palisade log cottage needed just a bit of fixing. He explained how they would have their own permanent camp, accessible only by boat and complete with tents and bonfires. A paradise. They would be like the Rough Riders out on expedition.
Louisa remained curled around a cushion near Isobel's feet while the boys fought for space on their father's knee, grabbing at the photograph of the island until it was bent and smudged.
"Are there owls?"
"Are there badgers?"
"Daddy, are there bats?"
And in unison. "Are there bears?"
Victor shook his head. "No badgers. No bears, but we'll have teddy bear picnics, just like Roosevelt's children."
Isobel looked up, puzzled. "Teddy's or FDR's?"
Victor ignored her. "We will be Lewis and Clark"– he winked– "paddling the wild, charting our own wilderness." The boys threw their arms around their father's neck and shoulders. Through a tangle of limbs Victor gave Isobel a sidelong look of triumph. Payback for the slap. Isobel slumped, glaring at the tree.
She managed to put the island out of her mind until after the ice melted from the big bay in spring. Victor packed her into the car one April evening and drove her to the boat landing at Chalmer's Point.
"I just know you'll feel differently after you've seen it, Izzy. It's a marvelous place."
While Victor fiddled with an anchor and readied the boat for launch, Isobel kicked off her shoes, pulled a pair of borrowed opera glasses from her handbag, and climbed carefully onto the hood of the Ford. Satisfied her weight wouldn't dent the metal, she clambered higher to stand on the slope of the black roof.
When Victor looked up from his task, he was astonished to see his wife balanced like a bowsprit atop the car, searching the horizon. Loose tendrils of blond hair skipped across her cheekbone, and her skirt billowed around her calves. Oblivious in her perch, Isobel held the glasses to her eyes, scanning the lake and focusing the tiny binoculars. She slowly swept her gaze level with the far shore, her motions concentrated and minute. Suddenly she went very still.
Isobel stood, a slender woman with clear skin and the sculpted features of her European ancestors. Her light hair was cast gold with the same bright evening light that made her squint and washed her skin the colour of a tea rose. Breeze moving off the lake carried ribbons of chill that pressed her blouse to outline her small breasts and angular shoulders. Victor walked slowly to the car, stepped onto the running board, and reached out to hold one of her ankles.
To steady her?
His hand wrapped easily around. Pressing his thumb lightly into flesh and sinew, he felt a twinge at the fragility of his wife's bones. Clouds reflected in the enamel of the Ford and shifted with the fast-changing black pool, her skirt casting its movements.
Victor wondered, had he never held her ankle? If he had, he'd not taken any real notice. He had lived with Isobel for sixteen years. Could it be he'd never touched this fine place? Her feet were small and narrow, so highly arched that he could slip a leaf underneath and pull it out the other side without her knowing. The warmth of her under his hand brought a sudden sharp desire to him.
They hadn't made love since before Christmas.
She hadn't openly rebuffed him, but had simply managed to be asleep each time he got into their bed. In the mornings she was up and dressed before he woke.
Perhaps after getting out to the island?
His own hand felt rough as he felt upward along her calf, taking care not to snag her stocking. Tailor's calluses ran in crested ridges across his fingers, and he wondered idly if he could file them down with the stone he used to grind scissors blades.
He laughed that he was even considering such a vain notion.
Isobel lowered the opera glasses to her chest and smiled crookedly at him.
He grinned hopefully. They used to go off, just roam away from the house, even if only for a half hour after the children were asleep. They would talk, and she would laugh and hang from his arm and he would tell her jokes or stories he'd heard, aping the voices of the townspeople, relaying what recent gossip he'd been privy to in the shop. Not very long ago, yet it seemed ages, the last time he'd made her laugh. It couldn't have been as long ago as autumn?
They'd been walking under the turning maples in their neat neighborhood. As he kicked leaves, Victor spied something on the ground. He picked up a scrap of white paper, folded it to a square, and held it to his collar, mimicking Father Thiery's oil-thick Irish brogue. He whispered somberly into her ear.
"Why aye, lad, I'm as fond of curly little darlin's as the next feller, but in yer capacity as a shepherd-in-training, these types of impure thoughts about the lambs might.... What's that, boy? Well, perhaps it's not so great a sin if ye were thinkin' of good St. Francis whilst...." When Victor wriggled his eyebrows in mock consternation, Isobel laughed so she had to lean against the neighbors' fence. "Now, did you say flock, son?"
She folded herself into a crouch and wiped her eyes with her knuckles. Victor looked down the street and back, waiting for his wife to stop laughing. He held out his hand.
"Up now, there's a girl."
"I can't!" There was an edge of hysteria in her voice.
He knelt next to her, the cloying accent back. "And why's that, my child?"
"Stop it!" Her tears were mixed now, and her answer was a hiccough. "B-b-because I've wet myself." She slapped his chest. "You've made me . . . I've peed on Mrs. Perlin's sidewalk!"
They both started laughing then, but hers was thin, and as she walked awkwardly away she gave him an accusing look. "Having three babies will do that to you."
"Aye." The accent thickened. "Wonder what four'd do, lassie?"
She looked at him with disbelief before pulling free of his arm. "Victor, not everything is a joke."
Steadying herself against a sudden wind from the lake, Isobel gingerly climbed down from atop the car, taking the hand he offered her. The gravel was a shock after the smooth metal of the hood, and as she limped to her shoes she brushed off her skirt in sudden industry.
He was reminded of her demeanor in the shop, her movements there swift and economical. She had worked nearly every day since Thomas, their youngest, had started school. She'd bring lunch, and while he ate she'd work on the account books or wait on customers. If she had a dress order or alteration or was sewing something for the children, she bent quietly over her machine through the afternoon, rising promptly at the sound of the school bell so she could rush home to greet the children.
She glanced at the lake, at the far speck of the island, before turning to look into her husband's eyes.
"I've seen it. Now take me home."

(c) 2001 by Sarah Stonich

Meet the Author

Sarah Stonich has been awarded a number of grants and fellowships. "These Granite Islands" was translated to eight languages and short-listed for France's prestigious Grand Prix de lectrices d'Elle. She is also the author of the award-winning novel, "The Ice Chorus", and a memoir, "Shelter". She lives in Minneapolis.

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4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great read and interesting characters woven through northern Minnesota history along with a study of how relationships shape and frame life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
lonelyshadeofbeige More than 1 year ago
As I live in Northern MN, Sarah Stonich's first novels setting was a natural attraction for me to buy the book and I am SO GLAD I DID! Was that enthusiastic enough?...... I loved this book, great descriptive writing, the characters were crisp and likable... did not want it to end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This debut novel gets the nuances between humans down perfectly and what is most moving.. it doesn't give itself away in the process. A story about friendship, love and committment. I found myself rereading a particular paragraph or sentence because it made me feel good. A sign of a marvelous writer!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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. The story is told in non-linear fashion, drifting from past moment to past moment, framed by the present at Isobel's death bed, while maintaining the central story of Isobel and Katherine's friendship. The attitudes and conflicts of the period are present in the characters actions and dialogue, whithout ever being forced or heavy handed--in that way, Stonich put us in the period with authentic characters. Stonich's prose flowed easily and quite often I found myself pausing to appreciate a particularly nice turn or phrase, beautiful metaphor, or stunning image. This is a book I will easily and readily recommend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book but if you're the type who prefers action dialogue (as am I) to never ending descriptions of surroundings including more information than I ever wanted to know about flowers, then this book probably isn't for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Among the many achievements of Sarah Stonich's These Granite Islands, one in particular stands out. Over the course of the story, Isobel, a very old woman, remembers her days of quite a long time ago, first as a young single woman falling in love, and then as a wife and mother in a complicated marriage. Stonich's achievement is to create a seamlessness among the various stages of Isobel's life, so that the reader has no doubt that the personality lying on her deathbed is indeed the same one who tended a store and consoled a lovesick friend many years earlier. My sense is that this is one of the trickiest feats for any novelist who deals with a broad expanse of time, and I think it's a device that's seldom done well--in fact, we readers often finesse gaps in a character's perspective as the price paid for a sweeping read. In These Granite Islands, however, no such accomodations need be made. The character of Isobel is fine-tuned throughout, and the reader has no doubt of her moral, experiential, or psychological continuity. Though there are many other aspects of this book I might praise--the fine writing, the careful period details, the humor, among others--this attention to the continuity of Isobel's character is the quality I admire most.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Remembered from the perspective of dreamlike old age, Isobel Howard's story of a particular summer 60 years earlier mesmerizes from the first page. It's a story that weaves together multiple themes in the emotional landscape, from the friendship between women, to the sometimes rocky terrain of marriage, to the powerful tug of unexplored choices. Superbly imagined and deftly written, Stonich's debut novel makes a deep and lasting impression. A great book club selection that will spark many debates, among them who will star in the film version.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sarah Stonich's book These Granite Islands creates the intimacy and nostalgia of remembered female friendships, and kept me engrossed from beginning to end. The descriptions are painterly and poetic, and I recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sarah Stonich's 'These Granite Islands' was an absolute pleasure to read. Stonich uses words like a painter would use a paintbrush. So beautifully articulate and captivating. A story that has you thinking about it long after you've read the last page. I wait in anticipation of her next novel!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A beautifully written story that goes deeply into women's hearts and lives and captures the strength and depth of women's friendships. The story is memorable and moving as most classic literature is; I would recommend it to my most intelligent and literate friends. I look forward to more by Sarah Stonich.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A perfect fall read. Find a comfortable chair - you'll want to stay with this book from beginning to end. Articulately crafted with engaging characters, Ms Stonich has written a superb debut novel. An intimate portrayal of friendship, love, deception and loyalty. This is a novel that ever-so-gently twists and turns through detailed scenes giving the reader an unobstucted view into the commonplace, yet complex lives of women, their men and their families. Be prepared to forge a bond with Isobel that will leave you thinking about her days after you read the final paragraph. These Granite Islands would make a captivating movie. I look forward to Ms Stonich's next novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A story with everything - passion, romance, intriguing characters, mystery. And a wonderful ending... couldn't put it down. I look forward to Ms. Stonich's next book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book combines extraordinary writing with an engrossing plot. My book group gave it seven out of seven 'thumbs up' - and they're a tough audience. I very much recommend it and look forward to more works by Ms. Stonich.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful book! The characters individually spoke to so many parts of my own life - the struggles and joys of marriage and children, being simlutaneously independent and dependent, attempting to be open to new ideas, new people, new places. Having spent a lot of time in Northern Minnesota over the last 25 years, the images created by the author brought me home in many ways. Stonich was able to beautifully describe not only the surroundings, but the unique feel of the northwoods. As other reviewers noted, I too didn't want the book to end. I have a feeling that Isobel's life could have had many other events that would have drawn me in. I'm looking forward to Stonich's next novel!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book. Written beautifully, could not put down! Moving and mysterious.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a fellow Minnesota writer ('The Legacy', Savage Press, October 2000) getting a late start on a writing career, I was anxious to read Sara Stonich's debut effort. Since many of the locations in 'These Granite Islands' are also utilized in my first novel (Minnesota's Iron Range, Duluth, St. Paul and Chicago), it was illuminating to read another first time writer describe my home turf. I finished the book in three days. Every page of the novel chimed with sophisticated prose. This is really a book to grab hold of, love and caress. Don't be surprised to find it on Oprah's list in the very near future. It's a work of heart and soul, and without moralizing too strongly, fidelity. Read it and fall in love with Isobel the way I did.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not big on writing reviews but this one is worth a look. I bought a copy for a friend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't want this book to end, and I didn't want to lose the thread of this character, Isabel, who is the kind of old lady I'd like to be myself one day. Miss Stonich writes the story of a very full life of one woman, who sees who she is and how she is shaped by her friendship 6o years earlier. As she remembers one summer, we meet her family, learn about her fears and troubles. The novels very well written - it reminded me alot of The Stone Diaries, by Carol Sheild. My book club is reading this book, and we are already phoning each other to talk about it, we cant wait for our regular meeting.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Not quite a century old, Isobel Howard lies dying in a hospital room. Unable to mentally remain or perhaps refusing to stay in the present, Isobel reflects back to the pivotal point in her life, the summer of ¿36. She relates the drama of that year to her only surviving son who patiently awaits his mother¿s death.

That summer in Cypress, Minnesota, with her two sons away with their father on his island folly, Isobel and her daughter meets Chicago heiress Cathryn Malley. Cathryn¿s husband is also away on engineering business. On the bright side, Cathryn provides meaning and identity to Isobel¿s life beyond that of mother and wife by introducing her to the fine arts. On the other hand, Cathryn begins an affair with Jack Reese in which Isobel plays a reluctant, guilt-ridden middleman. Isobel hides what she knows from Cathryn¿s spouse who suspects his wife is cheating. Then one day, the lovers vanish as Jack¿s cabin burns to the ground haunting Isobel till her dying day.

THE GRANITE ISLANDS is a fabulous romantic relationship drama that seems like a well-written throw back to a time when romanticism meant something different. The story line starts a bit choppy, but once the flashbacks to 1936 get into gear, the plot is smooth sailing and worth the time. Fans of powerful emotional women¿s mainstream fiction with a historical bent will fully enjoy a strong character-based romantic tale that will make debut author Sarah Stonich a household name rather quickly.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This authors novels were gifts, so I'm not able to make any evaluations.