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Did you ever wonder what it would be like to move to an exotic island and begin a whole new life? Author Susan M. Toy has brought that dream to life for the reader. Mariana, the main character in the book, is grieving for so many things. Her life in Canada had been one of loss and longing. She's looking for a fresh start in the Caribbean island of Bequia. Once she gets there she is met with more than she bargained for. She becomes an unwilling bystander in a local murder mystery. The expat community that she becomes a part of is not exactly the emotional balm that she hoped it would be with its strange and colorful characters who are living with secrets and emotional turmoil of their own. The local culture of the island is something of a culture shock for a woman finding her way solely on her own in a strange new place. This little island with so much natural beauty reveals itself as a character with a personality all of its own that winds itself hauntingly throughout the story. This book is moving, engrossing, and leaves you wishing for more of Susan M. Toy's writing.
I received "One Woman's Island," part of a collection of e-books as a New Year's gift from a nice lady-friend, who is aware of my Wanderlust and my partiality for cross-over genre novels. First, the setting captured my attention. I had never heard of the Caribbean island, Bequia. Having traveled extensively in my younger years, I noticed with pleasure that the exotic background of Susan Toy's tale is not sugar-coated, but deftly rendered with a keen eye for the daily lives of the locals in this "tropical paradise" (which turns out to be no paradise at all) and a fabulous ear for Caribbean dialects. Toy's style is fluent, yet at the same time delightfully willful. That's one of the features that makes “One Woman’s Island” stand out against many other thrillers. There is a taut plot - quickly moving forward - and for sure enough excitement, but the atmospheric aspects of the novel are more important to me, being a lover of literary suspense novels I particularly like the way Toy describes how expats and locals treat each other. The stubborn involvement of the main character, Mariana - who is seeking emotional refuge after a cold marriage and the death of her husband - when she encounters the violence hidden underneath the beauty of the island, is at the same time endearing and frustrating. As well as trying to solve a murder, Mariana takes her neighbors, a child-mother and her children, under her wings, but she is powerless, in spite of all her efforts, to counter the deep-rooted ancient ways of the locals, when things get rough. The characters are not always what they seem to be, and more than often they surprise the reader. In spite of the fluid readability of the novel, there is much going on under the surface. In my eyes, this is an important feature that separates a good novel from a mediocre one. By the way, I’m a great lover of Caribbean food, and I thought it an original idea of Susan Toy to incorporate local recipes into the novel. First, you frown, then you think, My, that sounds delicious, and then you wonder if you could cook it yourself. Conclusion: a surprising novel that leaves the well-trodden path of so many thrillers....
...there's something mystical and attractive about island life... as a young man, I lived and worked in a small island in the Scottish Hebrides... I have also been an expatriate in several jurisdictions around the world... comes now a novel from Susan Toy incorporating both of these elements - an island and an expat community... and she has captured me immediately... the visiting heroine is Mariana from 'away'... and no matter how long she would live on that isle she would always be a foreigner... such is the way on an island... however, the good lady's made of sterner stuff than most and jumps headlong into a whole hodgepodge of situations... recently widowed, her quest to reinvent herself and her life brings her into stark contrast with two differing life styles on Bequia... that of the incumbent native islanders... and the distaff life of the long term foreign residents... despite her best intentions, Mariana's actions run contrary to both sets of the society from time to time... into her already jumbled new existence fall a local family, whose hardships Mariana seeks to salve... her equally new-found expat friends flash amber and red lights to her to be careful of what she thinks she's trying to do... not all is always as it seems on Bequia... the added mystery of suspicious deaths of certain of the foreign set only confuse her even more... especially when her friends are so close to the people killed... I enjoyed the insular pace of the novel as the story melded easily from one scenario into the next... Ms Toy brings the strands together artfully toward the close, and I was left with some tantalizing memories of my own of a different island, in a different place, in a different era, but with so many delicious similarities... a most entertaining read...
I just finished reading One Woman’s Island and thought it was splendid. Once again, Susan Toy brings the real Bequia to a fictional world and uses that combination to great effect. Toy does a wonderful job with the characters’ emotional lives and backstories, using a certain level of implication about a lot of it, which I always like. This wasn’t just the main character, Mariana’s, romp in Bequia. It was a powerful effort to make sense of her life up till then and to figure out, in many ways, who she really is. It’s a character study and an exploration of a foreign culture, maybe on the order of Under the Tuscan Sun. Congratulations to Susan Toy on another feather in the Bequia Perspectives cap!
[I was provided a pre-publication copy of this book.]