I wasn’t sure what to think about this book, but I was determined to read it before it turned into some sort of 50 Shades of Grey disaster. The story sounded interesting – woman and boy stranded on a desert island, fighting the elements as well as their growing attraction – and, as a diehard Lost fan, I’m weirdly drawn to Lord of the Flies type stories. But it was classified in the “romance” section of the bookstore which usually means sex, sex, cheesy plot line, and more sex. Given the subject matter (a 30-something woman and her teenage protégé) I was a little worried it was going to be smutty or… uncomfortable. It wasn’t. It was an emotional battle between two unlikely lovers who ultimately give each other the will to survive. I cried once… just a little.
On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves
Anna has accepted a job tutoring TJ at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives. She is doing this because her boyfriend of 8 years has yet to propose to her, she’s 30 years old and she desperately wants a baby, and she even more desperately needs to get away from it all.
TJ has just been told that his cancer is gone, for now. All he wants to do is spend the summer hanging out with his friends and doing things normal 17 year olds would do, but his parents are dragging him to the Maldives for rest and relaxation… and studying. Not his first choice.
Anna and TJ are on their way to meet TJ’s parents when their pilot suffers a heart attack and their plane crashes in the middle of the ocean. Eventually TJ and an unconscious Anna find themselves washed up on the beach of a small island occupied by coconut trees and a handful of chickens. Together they must survive every obstacle that nature throws at them; thirst, starvation, sickness, sharks, storms, and tidal waves… to name a few. Together they must overcome the emotional trauma of being stranded without hope of rescue, wondering if their families have moved on, wondering if they would ever see another human face. Together they must come to terms with their desire, as unconventional as it is, because it may be the only thing that saves them.
This book was tastefully done, to say the least. TJ, though 17, has the maturity of a much older guy. His bout with cancer coupled with the plane crash has forced him to grow up fast. On the island he has to take care of not only himself, but Anna too. He never once breaks down or throws a fit, he is strong for Anna. Mutually, Anna respects TJ and never once treats him differently because of his age. For years they grow and survive together on the island, they take care of each other through sickness and health, they develop a routine, and they make the island their home. As the book progressed it was only natural for these two characters to fall in love. A love that would seem entirely unnatural in any other setting or by any other means. Kudos to the author for creating such likeable characters and allowing them to fall in love so gracefully. All the pieces had to be in place for this story to work as well as it does.
Spoiler Alert: This island is only half the battle. Anna and TJ are rescued from the island and overjoyed to continue their life together back in civilization, but society doesn’t understand their love and neither is sure it can survive.
The author has created two incredibly real characters, who, though placed in an extreme situation, face very real problems… on and off the island. Their story is raw and emotional and moving and I would recommend it to anyone.