ISLAND JUSTICE by Elizabeth Winthrop


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The interconnected lives and loves of a Maine island’s summer and off-season people are explored with engaging warmth in a rather loose, baggy chronicle, from the author of numerous books for children and one previous adult novel, In My Mother’s House (1988). As the story begins, 30ish Maggie Hammond, a consultant specializing in the restoration of antique furniture, returns to the (unnamed) island to claim the old house left to her by her late godmother. Winthrop then gradually introduces Maggie’s year-round neighbors: contractor (and sheriff) Al Craven, his abused wife Anna, and their 13-year-old daughter Erin; Dennis Lacey, a newly arrived physician; Chuck Montclair, a kind of village sage who quietly observes others’ conflicts; and Sam Matera, deemed “the naturalist,” to whom Maggie is instantly attracted. The novel springs some surprises, thanks to the skill with which Winthrop shifts the viewpoint (Maggie is by no means its sole focus). But the major actions are nevertheless contrived and predictable: A nurse who sleeps around discovers, and displays, evidence of an extramarital affair; Al’s brutal treatment of Anna (and habit of slipping into Erin’s bed) produces explosive results; teenagers vandalize empty houses; and Al’s construction company, no straight-arrow, is discovered to be using inferior materials and bribing building inspectors. Winthrop does best in portraying Erin’s baffled awareness of sex--several scenes involving kids are among the book’s sharpest--but she labors too much in distinguishing “island people” from their less communal mainland counterparts (“we jump when the siren goes off and take chances when somebody’s in trouble. . . . It’s not because we’re morally upright human beings. It’s just because there’s this circle of water around us that forces us to be that way”). Add a loose-end—tying finale in which a wounded dog recovers and people get the partners they desire, and what you have is a pretty conventional melodrama after all.

Pub Date: July 8th, 1998
ISBN: 0-688-15920-6
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1998


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