Marrow Island: On the Power of the Environment to Shape Our Lives

Review originally published in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission.

marrow island alexis smith novel

In Marrow Island, Smith offers a complex story of one woman's life while quietly reflecting on the power of the environment to shape our lives.

Marrow Island begins at the end: the opening pages introduce Lucie as she is being rescued from Marrow Island by a park ranger and her best friend--who may have tried to kill her. Reflecting on the story she later tells FBI agents, state police, the park ranger and her family, Lucie considers Marrow Island and the small eco-colony she encountered there: "Marrow Colony as cult. Marrow Colony as failed utopia. Build, destroy, repeat."

This becomes something of a theme throughout Marrow Island, as Alexis M. Smith (Glaciers) moves Lucie's story backward and forward through time to reveal the many ways she has rebuilt her life after destruction: the loss of her father in the May Day quake 20 years earlier, the loss of her childhood best friend, the loss of her job, and her harrowing experiences at Marrow Colony. But it is also the story of how nature itself builds, destroys and repeats: the changed landscape of the Pacific Northwest following that May Day quake, the chemical spills that swept across Marrow Island and destroyed its ecosystem, the wildfires that burn though Oregon years later.

Lucie's experiences drive the plot of Marrow Island, pressing ahead to an alarming and somewhat open-ended conclusion as it leaps about in time and place to reveal what happened at Marrow Colony. But tucked into this suspenseful plot are stunning and important reflections on nature and the environment, its awe-inspiring power and the many ways humanity both detracts from that power and willfully ignores it--and how that shapes our lives.


Marrow Island | Alexis Smith | Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | Hardcover | June 2016 | Buy from an independent bookstore near you

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