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Osprey Island by Thisbe Nissen

Osprey Island

by Thisbe Nissen

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This novel follows the inhabitants of a small East-Coast island, a tourist destination in summer and a slow local hamlet during all other seasons. Centred around the Osprey Island Lodge, the book begins with the illustration of several dysfunctional small-town characters: Suzy Chizek, a single mother whose parents Bud and Nancy own the lodge, and who has come back for the summer to work; Roddy Jacobs, recently returned to live on the island with his eccentric mother Eden after having stayed away for almost 20 years; Lorna and Lance Squire, the drunken and volatile couple who are at best, neglectful to their 8-year-old son Squee, and at worst, abusive to him.

The stage is set for tragedy, and it happens when Lorna dies in a laundry room fire she has accidentally set while drunk. The remainder of the book (which I must confess I skimmed, but didn't read) follows the events that unfold, and reveals the secrets held by each of these characters. And the secrets are easily as dramatic as the characters' lives: rape, affairs between a teenage girl and a respected island resident, pregnancies, abortions obtained through one of the islanders.

With such a density of scandal, it is ironic that the characters are at best portrayed as two-dimensional. There are essential characteristics that each carries, and they do not fundamentally change as people; Suzy's bad relationship with her father isn't just due to old misunderstandings but because her father is a Bad Man who has done Bad Things. Eden Jacobs is a principled old hippie, who responds to all situations with the most ethical action possible. The island itself is made into a mysterious place that residents can't leave -- but for which they will suffer greatly. This all results in a stiff reading experience, and I stopped reading part way through to skip ahead and find out the plot intrigues. The writing is clear and imagistic, but the description is often misplaced; for example, when Lorna, recovering from a hangover on a sunny morning, wishes "the light were like the stiffness of a new pair of shoes, and she closed her eyes and tried to imagine breaking it in." This passage continues tracing Lorna's thoughts, which are so blunt in their metaphor they read false, particularly for a character who is so self-deceptive: "Squee belonged in the light, an angel child [...] To stay with Squee in the sun she'd have to vow never to take another drink. Never look at Lance again, b ecause Lance was darkness, and Lorna's dream of light ended with him." The book reads as if it were an earlier draft with some cosmetic polishing; it would have been stronger and subtler with another rewrite. ( )
  allison.sivak | Aug 20, 2007 |
I don’t know about this book. Several times I tried to invoke the “rule of 50,” but something made me read a couple more pages. Then about half way through, a diary was found hidden in a refrigerator which survived a fire. The characters treated it as if it contained some horrible secret, so I kept going. I found the secret at the end (YAWN)! Except for a fight scene, which was pretty exciting, I found this book only three shades above boring.
First off, unless I am reading George Eliot, chapter titles annoy me. These had lots to do with ospreys, as did each chapter’s epigram. Normally, I find these things interesting and will try and find the source, but, in this case, I couldn’t be bothered. I am also suspicious of novels that list all the characters, their relationships, and ages up front – unless, however, I am reading War and Peace. I guarantee this is in no way anywhere near Tolstoy. Normally, I find Random House a reliable publisher of fiction – I guess every house is entitled to an occasional slip up.
The characters were flat, dull, and uninteresting. Some characters were not described in enough detail to make them even remotely memorable and interesting. The ones that were described in detail, seemed so to the point of being clichés. Two stars.
--Jim, 7/15/07 ( )
  rmckeown | Jul 16, 2007 |
I enjoyed this better than "The Good People of New York"--it seemed better constructed. It's a good summer novel. ( )
  paisley1974 | Jul 24, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385720629, Paperback)

As summer begins on Osprey Island, preparations at the Lodge -- the island’s one and only hotel — are underway for the busy season. On maintenance and housekeeping there’s Lance and Lorna Squire, Osprey locals and raging drinkers; and their irrepressible son Squee. There are college boys to wait tables and Irish girls to clean rooms. And a few unusual returnees, too: Suzy Chizek, single mom and daughter of the Lodge’s owners, who’s looking for a parentally funded vacation; and Roddy Jacobs, another former local, who has come back after a mysterious twenty-year absence. But when tragedy strikes, dark secrets explode, dividing the island community over the fate of a young boy suddenly more vulnerable to his violent father than ever. In the uniquely ephemeral atmosphere of a summer resort, Thisbe Nissen unfolds, with charecteristic warmth and charm, an ever-deepening story of lost loves and found romance, of loyalties and betrayals; and of lingering–sometimes fleeting–joy.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:21 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Very few people ever leave the tight-knit community of year-rounders on Osprey Island, and fewer yet come back. Suzy Chizek does, though, with her young daughter in tow; a single mother, she comes home in the summer of 1988 to help her father run his hotel, the Lodge. Roddy Jacobs returns to work at the Lodge, too, after a mysterious period of drifting in the wake of the Vietnam War. Separated since high school, Suzy and Roddy cannot help but come together, unsure whether they are in love or simply using each other, and the Island, as an escape from the pressures and disappointments of mainland life." "Just before the start of the season, the Lodge's troubled housekeeper dies in a suspicious fire, shattering the Island's equilibrium. Lorna had protected her young son, affectionately nicknamed Squee, from the rages of her alcoholic husband, Lance. When Squee, in his grief and panic, runs away from both his father's ramshackle home and his grandparents, he seeks out Roddy and Suzy, whom he implicitly trusts, bringing the tentative lovers into conflict with volatile Lance. Roddy's mother, the controversial and independent Eden, seems to know more Island secrets than anyone. She loves Squee with motherly intensity, but her righteous defense of him may prove more dangerous than helpful." "Can the community save Squee from his father, the very person who is meant to take care of him? Can a town that is fueled by secrets expose itself to responsibility? Is it brave or foolish to leave the familiarity of Osprey Island?"--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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