ISLAND by Charles Abbott


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 Pseudonymous first novel by a ``prizewinning author of distinguished nonfiction'' who died in 1992: an earnest, absorbing, if occasionally awkward, tale that explores the nature of love and happiness as it traces the descent and recovery of an isolated urban drinker. The only son of a poor Episcopalian minister and his bitter, hypercritical wife, Frederick Fay grew up in 1930's Connecticut in a state of acute shyness and self-loathing. His skill at fleeing schoolyard bullies eventually led to a track scholarship to Princeton, where Fred was so dazzled by his wealthy, preppy classmates that he internalized every detail of their manner and dress. Winning a job at an N.Y.C. ad agency, Fred doggedly pursued his climb up the social ladder, taking time out for a job in the Air Force during WW II. Then, back in New York, Fred resumed his career, married socialite Julia Fanshawe, and moved into an apartment in Sutton Place. Soon, however, the stress of keeping up appearances--despite no real friends, a loveless marriage, and an inability to perform his job--led Fred to drinking. When, in quick succession, he was fired from his job, discovered his wife in bed with a woman friend, and lost Fran Collins, his passionate but lower-class lover, Fred drank himself into oblivion until a therapist gradually pulled him out of his depression. Now, fleeing to tiny Sheep Island off the New England coast, Fred constructs a home for himself as another form of therapy. Gradually forging a few honest connections with residents, he even takes a job as the local garbageman in his efforts to learn how life should truly be lived. Miraculously, his former lover returns to him. Thus all live happily ever after in what is less a credible work of a fiction than a working-out of what it means to be real. A Pinocchio story for grown-ups: mostly affecting, even if its workings do show.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1994
ISBN: 0-06-019050-7
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1993