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Up Island

Up Island

4.2 26
by Anne Rivers Siddons

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If there was ever one woman who knew what was important, that woman was Molly Bell Redwine. From childhood, Molly was taught by her charismatic, demanding mother that "family is everything." But in what seems like an instant, Molly discovers that family can change without warning. Her husband of more than twenty years leaves her for a younger woman, her domineering


If there was ever one woman who knew what was important, that woman was Molly Bell Redwine. From childhood, Molly was taught by her charismatic, demanding mother that "family is everything." But in what seems like an instant, Molly discovers that family can change without warning. Her husband of more than twenty years leaves her for a younger woman, her domineering mother dies, and her Atlanta clan scatters to the four winds. In a heartbeat Molly is set adrift.

Devasting by her crumbling world, Molly takes refuge with a friend on Martha's Vineyard where she tries to come to terms with who she really is. After the summer season, Molly decides to stay on in this very different world, renting a small cottage on a remote up-island pond.

As Molly's stay up island widens the distance between her and her old life in Atlanta, she lets go of her outworn notions of family and begins to become part of a strange—and very real—new family.As the long Vineyard winter closes in, she braces herself for the search for renewal, identity, and strength, until the healing spring finally comes.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
A woman whose family has fallen apart finds refuge on Martha's Vineyard, caring for others as a means of finding herself.
School Library Journal
YA--For Molly Redwine, maintaining her family is the essence of her existence. When her husband announces he is leaving her for another woman, her world collapses. The "other woman" quickly takes over Molly's social position, her house, and even the affection of her son. With the sudden death of her domineering mother, Molly is truly set adrift. Escaping with friends to Martha's Vineyard, she starts the search for her own identity. When her friends depart, she stays on in a small cottage. As a renter, she must also assume the duties of caretaker of two cantankerous old women who share a haunting secret, a gravely ill and estranged son of one of those women, and two territorial swans. Through the winter, Molly struggles to nurture them as she searches for a future for herself. As with most of Siddons's heroines, Molly is an engaging woman who battles successfully with adversity and remains unsinkable. The author's fans will be delighted with her latest novel and its setting.--Katherine Fitch, Lake Braddock Middle School, Burke, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Siddons has her formula down to a science ("Fault Lines", 1995, etc.), as this latest once again demonstrates.

Molly Bell Redwine is a woman who's never had a chance to discover herself. As a child, she lived under the shadow of her glamorous mother. As a young adult, she met and married Tee, a Coca-Cola executive who fathered her two children, Teddy and Caroline, and kept her comfortable in the manner to which she'd become accustomed. When Tee announces out of the blue that he's met a younger woman, a Coke attorney, and wants a divorce, and Molly's mother up and dies without any notice, Molly's stable if painfully dull Atlanta existence is thrown into disarray. On the advice of her transplanted northern friend Liv, she heads to Liv's house in Martha's Vineyard for the rest of the summer, and to everyone's surprise decides to stay once Liv heads back south at the end of the season. On the island, Molly finds herself in an unusual position as house-sitter, nurse, and friend to two elderly, ill women, and as part-time caretaker to one of the women's sons, who's suffering from cancer and has recently had his leg amputated. On top of it all, Molly's depressed, mourning father joins her, hoping to find solace in this place where he and his daughter are anonymous. But as is often the case—at least in a good Siddons novel—alone doesn't last for long, and love comes when it's least expected. What has seemed at first an unbearable burden transforms Molly in ways she couldn't have imagined.

Far-fetched but oddly compelling, this beaten-down housewife's journey to self-reliance and happiness has surprising quirks, lively characters, and actual feeling.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.02(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

You know how people are always saying "I knew it by the back of my neck" when they mean those occasional scalding slashes of intuition that later prove to be true? My mother is always saying it, though she is not always right. Nevertheless, in my half-Celt family, the back of one's neck is a hallowed harbinger of things to come.

I first knew my husband was being unfaithful to me, not by the back of my neck, but by the skin of my buttocks, which, given the ultimate sorry progress of things, was probably prophetic. I always thought it was grossly unfair that Tee got all the fun and I got dermatitis of the posterior, but there you are. According again to my mother, it was a pattern we had laid down in stone in the early days of our marriage.

I had been having fierce itching and red welts off and on since Christmas, but at first I put it down to the five pound box of candied ginger Tee's boss sent us and a savage new panty girdle that enabled me to get into my white beaded silk pantsuit. Later, when the itching and welting did not go away, I switched bath soap and body lotion, and still later had the furnace and air conditioning unit cleaned and found some plain unbleached cotton sheets for our bed. Still I felt as if I had been sitting in poison ivy, and often caught myself absently scratching in public as well as private. Teddy, my eighteen-year-old son, was mortified, and my best friend, Carrie Davies, asked me more than once, her elegant eyebrow raised, what was wrong. Tee would have teased me unmercifully, but he was not around much that winter and spring. Coca Cola was bringing out twonew youth-oriented soft drinks, and Tee and his team were involved in the test marketing, which meant near-constant travel to the designated markets across the country. I could have scratched my behind and picked my nose at the same time on the steps of St. Philips and poor Tee, jet-lagged and teen-surfeited, would not have noticed.

When I woke myself in the middle of a hot May night clawing my skin so that the blood ran, I made an appointment with Charlie Davies, and was distressed enough so that he worked me in at lunchtime the next day.

"Well, Moonbeam, drop your britches and lay down here and let's see what we got," he roared, and I did, not really caring that the paper gown Charlie's nurse had provided me gapped significantly when I tied it around my waist. Charlie and Tee had been roommates at the University of Georgia, and I had known Tee only two weeks longer than I had Charlie. Charlie had married Carrie Carmichael, my Tri Delta sister, a week after Tee and I had married . . . we had all been in each other's weddings . . . and we had kept the friendship going all through med school and internship and then practice for Charlie and the early and middle years at the Coca Cola Company for Tee. Charlie had probably seen my bare bottom more than once, given the houseparties and vacations we four spent together.

He had called me Moonbeam after Al Capp's dark, statuesque and gloriously messy backwoods siren, Moonbeam McSwine, since the first time we met. I allow no one else to do so, not even Tee.

I rolled over onto my stomach and Charlie pulled back the paper gown and gave a long, low whistle. "Shit, Molly, has Big Tee been floggin' you, or what? You look like you been diddlin' in the briar patch."

Despite his redneck patter, Charlie is a very good doctor, or he would not have any patients. Atlanta is full of crisp, no-nonsense out-of-towners who would draw the line, I thought, at being told to get nekkid and lay on down, unless the one saying it was supremely good at what he did. Charlie was. In time, the good-ole-boy gambit became a trademark, a trick, something people laughed indulgently about at parties. If it secretly annoyed me more than it amused, I never thought to verbalize it.

"How bad does it look?" I said.

"Honey, how bad can your sweet ass look? The day Tee married you the entire Chi Phi house went into mournin' for that booty. Though now that you mention it, there seems to be a good bit more of it these days, huh?"

And he slapped me gently on the buttock. I felt it quiver like jellied consomme under his thick fingers. There was indeed more of me now than when I had married. Where once people had looked at me and seen a tall, sinewy sun-bronzed Amazon with a shock of wild blue-black hair and electric blue eyes, now they saw a big woman—a really big woman—with wild, gray-black hair, all teeth and leathery-tanned skin and swimming, myopic eyes behind outsize tortoise shell glasses. Then, they had stared at the slap-dash, coltish grace and vividness that had been mine. Now they simply stared at big.

"Christ, it's a goddamned Valkyrie," I had overheard someone say at last year's performance of The Ring when it came to Atlanta. Tee and I had both laughed. I seldom thought about the added pounds, since they did not for a moment inhibit my life, and Tee never seemed to notice.

"I mean the rash, or whatever it is, you horny hound," I said now to Charlie.

"Well, I've seen worse," he said. "Saw jungle rot once, when I was a resident at Grady."

"Come on, Charlie, what is it? What do I do about it? I never had anything like this before."

"I don't know yet," he said, poking and prodding. "I'd say some kind of contact dermatitis, only you don't have a history of allergies, that I remember. I'm going to give you a little cortisone by injection and some pills and ointment, and if it's not healed by the time you've finished them I'm going to send you to Bud Allison. We need to clear this up. I don't imagine Tee is aesthetically thrilled by the state of your behind, is he?"

"I don't think he's even noticed," I said. "He's been out of town so much with these new Coke things that all we've had time to do is wave in passing. It's supposed to slack off in a couple of weeks though, and I wish we could get rid of this by then. He'll think I have been rolling around in the alien corn patch."

"Gon' sting a little bit," Charlie said, and I felt the cool prick of a needle. Then Charlie said, "I thought he was back by now. I saw him the other day over at that new condominium thing in midtown, the one that looks like a cow's tit caught in a wringer, you know. I guess he was helping Caroline move in there; he was toting a palm tree so big only his beady eyes were peekin' out of it, and she was bent double laughing. She's a honey, isn't she? The image of you at that age, thank God. Y'all must be real proud of her. She working around midtown?"

He pricked me again.

"That must have been somebody else's beady eyes peeking out of that palm tree, Charlie," I said. "Ow. That does sting. Caroline is married and living in Memphis, with a brand new baby. Honestly. You knew that; y'all sent the baby a silver cup from Tiffany. Must have killed you to pay for it."

Charlie took his hand off my buttocks. He was silent for a space of time, then he said, "You get dressed and come on in the office, and I'll write you out those prescriptions."

I heard his heavy steps leaving the examining room. I heaved myself up off the table. It hit me as I swung my bare legs over the side. The skin of my face felt as if a silent explosion had gone off in the little room. I actually felt the wind and the percussion of it. The room brightened as if flood lamps had been switched on, and when I took a breath there was only stale hollowness in my lungs. A new hot, red welt sizzled across my left buttock.

"Tee has somebody else," I thought. "He has had, since Christmas, at least. That was Tee Charlie saw. He knows it was. And that was her Tee was moving into that condo."

I sat for a moment with my hands in my paper lap, one cupped on top of the other, a gesture like you make in communion, waiting to receive the Host. I could not seem to focus my eyes. My ears rang. Through it all the skin of my behind raged and shrieked.

I stood up and dropped my paper gown and put on my clothes and went out of the little room and down the hall and out through the reception area to the elevator. I never got the prescriptions Charlie wrote for me.

When the elevator came, I got on with a handful of lunch-bound people, some in white coats, and stared vacantly at the quilted bronze doors, and thought, "the family. What is this going to mean for the family?"

By the time I stepped out onto the hot sidewalk running along Peachtree Street, I felt as if I were on fire from the back of my waist to my knees. I had the absurd and terrible notion that the weeping redness was sliding down to my ankles and puddling in my shoes, the visible stigmata of betrayal and foolishness.

Meet the Author

Anne Rivers Siddons's bestselling novels include Nora, Nora; Sweetwater Creek; Islands; and Fox's Earth. She is also the author of the nonfiction work John Chancellor Makes Me Cry. She and her husband divide their time between Charleston, South Carolina, and Brooklin, Maine.

Brief Biography

Charleston, South Carolina and a summer home in Maine overlooking Penobscot Bay
Date of Birth:
January 9, 1936
Place of Birth:
Atlanta, Georgia
B.A., Auburn University, 1958; Atlanta School of Art, 1958

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Up Island 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anne Rivers Siddons has done it again! Her characters in Up Island are rich and multi-dimensional, and more importantly, believeable. Any middle aged woman who has given up hope while experiencing the misery involved in the break up of a long term relationship will absolutely love this book. In its pages the reader can laugh and cry, experience joy and pain, and begin to heal from the unfortunate turn of events in her life. It offers real hope of triumph over pain. Don't miss this one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was good. Only the 2nd or 3rd story I've read by Ann River's Siddon. A bit too much for 1 woman to take on all at once, but did hold my interest and kept me cheering for Molly. I do hope her Dad lives forever.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
clh62 More than 1 year ago
I totally enjoyed this book! The relationships between the characters were so well developed and believable. The descriptions of the Island and of the Atlanta were dead-on. I found myself laughing and crying. Can't wait to read more from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Engrossing. Thought provoking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Now when I want to escape my world I dream of the place in this book. Such a beautiful escape!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I read by Anne Rivers Siddons several years ago. I enjoyed it so much, I purchased it for my NOOK and read it again! She writes so well and describes everything in so much detail you feel like you are a part of the story. I have also read more of her books and feel the same about each of them.
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Pinkribbongal More than 1 year ago
Once more Anne Rivers Siddons brings to us a novel we can enjoy and the characters become very real. Pinkribbongal
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cassie58522 More than 1 year ago
Tell your family to get supper for themselves when you get toward the end because you're going to have difficulty doing anything else but read until you get to the last page...and then you will want to find someone else who's read it to discusss the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been reading a lot of murder mysteries and decided I needed a change! I loved the storyline of this book! I would reccommend it to everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was my first Anne Rivers Siddons and I enjoyed it alot. Very good in the beginning, which I like a story that draws you in, this one kind of gets boring in the middle, I stuck with it and was glad I did. Very good ending. Will definitely read more by this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first read this novel years ago and while on vacation this summer, picked it up again. I liked it even more the second time! The richness of characters and the strong sense of place drew me right back in and I discovered insights I'd missed the first time. Siddons wrote a keeper.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anne Rivers Siddons is an outstanding author, and this story is no exception. However, unlike many of her other novels, Up Island lacks both a climax and joy. I found it a rather downbeat novel on the whole. But this book is still a must-read for Siddons fans.