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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,


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 forher. It is the first time she has felt this kind of love and support.

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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Chapter One

I met Lewis Aiken when I was thirty-five and resigned to the fact that I would not marry for love, only, perhaps, for convenience, and he was fifty and had long been married, until fairly recently, for no reason other than love. For a long time after our relationship began, I thought we had turned ourselves about; that I was the one who loved, clumsily and foolishly, with the passion of one who has never really felt passion before, and Lewis was the one who found in me comfort and convenience. By that time I did not care. He could name the terms. I would be whatever he wanted and needed me to be.

We met on an afternoon in April, humid and punishing as spring can often be in the Carolina Low Country, when the air felt like thick, wet steam and the smell of the pluff mud from the marshes around Charleston stung in nostrils and permeated clothes and hair. I was bringing a frightened, clubfooted child to the free clinic Lewis operated on Saturdays, and we were running late. My old Toyota was coughing and gagging in the heat, and I had turned off the air conditioner to spare its strength, and was running sweat. In the backseat, buckled into her car seat, the child howled steadily and dismally.

I did not blame her. I wanted to howl myself. Her feckless mother had dropped her off in my office the afternoon before and faded away for the second time running, leaving me to scramble around for a place for her daughter to spend Friday night and then pick her up the next day and take her to the clinic myself. Back in my office the paperwork that was the effluvia of desperate need mounted steadily.

"Sweetie, please stop crying," I said desperately, over my shoulder. "We're going to see the nice man who's going to help get your foot fixed, and then you can run around and jump and ... oh, play soccer." I had no idea what movement would tempt a five-year-old, but it obviously was not soccer. The howls mounted.

I pulled into the lot next to the beautiful old house on Rutledge Avenue that housed Dr. Lewis Aiken's Low Country Pediatric Orthopedic Clinic. I knew that Dr. Aiken had long done free diagnostic and referral work with handicapped -- physically challenged, I could not keep up -- children from all around the region. He was regarded in my agency as one of the city's greatest child resources, one of our constant angels. The agency I managed was a part federally, part privately funded sort of clearinghouse for services for needy children and adolescents, and by that time I knew where all the angels were located.

I had come to work at the agency just out of the College of Charleston when I was twenty-two, when my duties consisted of manning telephones and running out for emergency meals and diapers for our clients, and somehow had never left. I was head now, and my duties were more often those of an administrator and fund-raiser and public relations director, but I had not lost my primary passion for the children we served; indeed, I had come to think that that was where all my scant supply of passion went. I had not yet met Dr. Aiken or many of our other care providers, though I knew all their office people on the phone. My small staff of cynically idealistic young men and women did most of the hands-on work now. But it was Saturday, and when the child's silly mother did not appear at the foster home that had taken in her daughter, the foster parents called me and I had no recourse but to go. Oh, well, I had no plans except the stack of books that had been piling up beside my bed and maybe a Sunday-afternoon movie with Marcy, my deputy.

Marcy and I spent some time together on weekends, not so much out of deep friendship, but more out of simple expediency. We liked each other, and it was nice to have someone else to go places with, but we came nowhere near being best friends, and certainly not the settled lesbian couple that I knew some of the junior staff thought us to be. Marcy had a sometimes-boyfriend in Columbia who came over every third weekend, whom she assumed, rather lackadaisically, I thought, that she would eventually marry. I had some men friends, all from the ranks of the vast medical complex that bloomed like kudzu in the center of Charleston, though none were doctors. I seemed to attract the administrator type. My mother could have told me so, and had: I could hear her voice as I struggled with the straps of the wriggling child's car seat: "If you don't fix yourself up some and get your nose out of those books, no interesting kind of man will have you. You don't know anything about anything but wiping noses and doing wash. How sexy do you think that is?"

And whose fault is that? I would think, but it would have been futile to say it aloud. She was usually drunk when she started in on me -- she was usually drunk, period -- and would not have remembered. I could never quite fathom what kind of man my mother thought was interesting; it seemed to me that all of them filled the bill. She'd certainly had a diverse stable. By the time alcohol became her constant lover, I was regularly taking care of my two younger sisters and brother, and overseeing housework and meals, too. Oddly enough, I rather liked it. It made me feel important, needed, and I had a talent for nurturing that was perhaps my strongest gift. And I did and do love my sisters and brother. My mother has been dead for many years now.

"Okay, toots, here we go," I said to little white-blond Shawna Sperry, who was mucus streaked and fretful but had stopped crying ...

Islands. Copyright © by Anne Rivers Siddons. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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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Islands 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Gatlianne More than 1 year ago
I finished this book because the cover said "National Best Seller" and I thought - there has to be a reason this book is a best seller so I'm going to finish it! I closed the book when I was finished thinking - nope - there wasn't a reason. People must have bought it for the author's name. This is the send Siddons book I've read. I wasn't pleased with the first either. When the story started out in "Islands" I thought it had potential. I was in the world of Charleston and I learned a few things yet never quite felt I was "in" the lives. I liked the idea of the "Scrubs" - of a group of friends who became family and vowed to stay together and take care of each other. But the idea fell short. When the story began to unravel and the reader realizes that this group who seems untouchable and a bit unreal is in fact touchable and very much real - it was a let down. The way their threads unraveled all the more was even more of a let down. (There were several let downs for me in this book - the biggest of all the ending) I read another review where it spoke of little character detail. I agree with this very much. We really never got into the minds of the characters. Overall, the book was a struggle to read and a struggle to finish. I was quite disappointed by the "surprise" ending and the way it just popped up. For me, the book was a somber tail of could be friendship with very little substance.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this book was a good read, filled with characters and places I would love to be part of. You will quickly feel part of the 'family' and the twist at the end was a huge surprise.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love all her books but this is my favorite, have retread it several times. Charleston is an awesome place and she brings it and the low country alive in this book. The characters felt like old friends. Don't understand the negative reviews!
RMJReviews More than 1 year ago
As a newcomer to the Southeastern U.S. from the Rocky Mountain West, I found Anne Rivers Siddons through her wonderful "Downtown" which gave me a better idea of the complexities that formed this part of the country. From there I explored Hill Town, Outer Banks, Low Country and more. I identified strongly with and enjoyed Fault Lines having lived many years on the West Coast. When I read Islands I was hoping to better glimpse the Charleston SC area and direct my home-on-wheels that way if the novel encouraged me. It provided great travelogue but more important it looked deeply into human nature as do all of her wonderful novels. This story is about a woman and also her friends through the years and the changes that take place. It is also a story dealing with major issues: life, death, insanity, compassion, and circumstances related to ethnicity, sex, imagined or not. When a close-knit group forms over the years, one of the members becomes guilty of terrible atrocities and the main character Anny Butler is emotionally wave-tossed in her attempts to figure her life out and understand what is happening to those she loves and loses. I won't share the ending - but it's a great read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first Anne Rivers Siddons book I read. At the time, I was in Charleston on vacation, and enjoyed reading of the streets and islands we had visited. I was completely caught up in the lives of the characters and didn't want to put it down each night.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a well written book with solid description. Readers are quickly taken so far into the vivid places of Carolina that they will immediately pack their bags. Each character requires rapt attention. However, I got bogged down in the too drawn out storyline. The sweetness in tone changed rapidly to impending doom.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I lived in the Lowcounty for over 10 years in the 80's and Siddons hits it right on the head. After reading this book I miss Charleston even more. We return every year and stay out at Folly Beach. This book is one of the best I have ever read!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
the characters are never fully developed in this novel. When the first of the 'Scrubs' died, I felt like I hardly knew him. The author tries too hard to force sympathy for the characters without showing her readers why they should care at all. Unlike the irrespressible Molly Redwine in 'UP ISLAND', Anny never develops as a character and the forced camaraderie of the 'Scrubs' is as puzzling as it is tiresome. Have always loved Siddons novels, but will be very cautious about picking up another one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was really looking forward to this book, as I have enjoyed all her stories in the past, but... I found the characters remarkably unlikable, and this story is just one bad thing after another. I know her stories usually are dramatic and bad things happen in all of them, but come on, give them a little happiness, too, won't you? Also, the book skips around a lot. You get to the next chapter and find that years have passed. Other characters are suddenly friends, now, with no explanation of how they got that way. I finished reading it because it is a book by Anne Rivers Siddons, but when I was done, I wished I hadn't bothered, sad to say. BUT! I will continue to read any other books she writes, because I *know* that she can do better!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was so happy when I found Ms. Siddons back on the shelves after such a long time. I did love Islands and could not put it down. I really became involved with the charachters, although I didn't like them much. Not being from the South, I was not aware of such a snobby class system. And it would be that statement that was at the heart of my disapointment. I think it is a great summer read and I know so many Siddons fans that will overlook some of its faults.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i enjoy reading books by southern writers, especially anne rivers siddons, and I've waited a long time for a new book by her. nobody does it better!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Siddons books and unlike most of her other's this one does not measure up. The characters are not likeable and one ends up not caring how it ends as it gets slow around the middle of the book. Her writing is very colorful and I've always gained much pleasure from it, this one has much of that as well, however, the story just wasn't the caliber of her past endeavors.
Guest More than 1 year ago
just finished the book and was to see it end. i enjoyed being a part of anny and lewis and their stuffy and a bit snobby friends... they were appealing in their devotion to each other and their fellow Scrubs... i live on the coast of oregon so i could really relate to all the beachy things.. i could smell, taste, and touch all of the things she described... this will be an old friend that i will reread many times
Guest More than 1 year ago
I rush to get every new Anne Rivers Siddons novel because I love the way she writes and her ability to make a reader live 'in' the characters and 'in' the setting. She has an ability to make a reader feel, taste and smell everything that her characters experience. I felt the same way with this book until about 3/4 of the way through. Then I felt like Ms. Siddons just gave up and wasn't sure how to end it. The introduction of new characters who had no depth and the unbelievable explanation of what 'really happened' made me feel as though I was finishing a beach romance novel. Although I would recommend Ms. Siddon's books, this is not one I would put on my list.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Been there, done that. Awesome area! Could live out my life there. I love the way Siddons writes, she hits home. I'm a New Yorker who can't get enough of Atlanta and Charleston.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was my first visit with Anne Rivers Siddons, although I have heard a lot about her from members of my reading group. I can say I¿m glad I read this book, although I do have some qualms about the story itself and the characters. I found the characters to be a bit snobbish. While I cared what happened with these characters, it was difficult to feel ¿with¿ them. Anny, who is the narrator of this story, finds herself quickly accepted into what was a tight and closed group; I¿m not quite sure it would happen this way. Siddons writes beautifully and uses the English language in a way I don¿t see enough in new books. Another interesting point to Siddons¿ writing is her ability to make location (Charleston and surrounding areas of South Carolina) a character within the story. Very interesting indeed. The title of the book alone is very symbolic. We learn that we are all islands in and of ourselves and different actual islands play major roles in the story as well. The story that surrounds these characters was beautiful, poignant, and true, but their contact (or lack thereof) with the ¿outside world¿ was a bit, in my opinion, unbelievable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
andieO More than 1 year ago
Islands was my first Anne Rivers Siddons novel and although i wasnt sure at first if i could get into it, I'm so glad I stayed with it. Loved the charactersand the friendships shared. Many nights I felt I was sitting with thembaround their campfire. I purchased several other books by Ms Rivers Siddons and am enjoying them as well. Hail to the scrubs/good wine/laughter/love and friendships. I would most definitely recommend this read.
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Great read like all her books.
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