A week ago, I read and mini-reviewed Glaciers by Alexis M Smith. I loved the writing in the tiny book and the story was so great in its minimalism. I knew that Marrow Island was going to be up very quickly after Glaciers. Would her sophomore book be on par with her first one?
Marrow Island follows Lucie Bowen through a few time periods in her life. One takes place in the modern period, she is married to a character we will meet in another time period and is being asked by Sister J to return once again to her side as she is dying. Lucie has no plans to return, but is drawn back to see the results of a different time period in her life.
In the other time period Lucie is returning to Marrow Island for the first time in 10 years. Prior to her return 10 years earlier her father died in an industrial accident which is why she left in the first place. She returns due to a letter from her best friend growing up, Katie. Katie is now part of a semi ecologically religious commune on Marrow Island under the leadership of Sister J. They are on the island to help bring new life to the island through the use of mushrooms. There is something very odd about this commune and Sister J. Katie has bought into everything Sister J teaches, but Lucie cannot. She will explore the island, what they are doing, and why many of the sisters have problems reproducing. There is also a lot of cancer within the commune. The question is why.
There is also the story of Lucie's neighbor across the way from her old cabin across the water from Marrow Island. This story will seep into the background, but will be significant within the book. I am lifting this up because I sort of forgot about it and almost missed some significant events because I forgot about this side story.
Marrow Island is a very slow burn. Smith's writing once again drives the story forward with it's beauty and flow. This woman can write beautiful sentences and it is her writing that really brings this story to life.
It is a slow burn though. I am repeating this because it seems not a lot happens, but things are happening which will come into play much later in the book, such as the story of the neighbor. We will see this story in the very beginning of the book and the payoff will not come until about 200 pages in. This happens throughout the book. Things that seem insignificant will play a very large roll somewhere within the book. Smith doesn't waste story and that is important to know while reading. It does move slowly though.
You will also learn more about mushrooms than you ever wished to learn. If I had a criticism of the book, it is how much you will learn about mushrooms. They play a significant part in much of the book. In the dedications that Smith makes, she credits someone for teaching her about mushrooms, so it was a passion project. At one point, I swore I read 20 pages about mushrooms, but it was no where near that many, but combine a slow burn with some serious mushroom education and it will feel like a lot. This would be my sole criticism if it was a true criticism.
Lucie's relationships are low key, but they too will pay off later. Reveals will happen about her relationship with Katie, Sister J, her father, her husband, etc. It just takes time in this book and it is worth it.
Overall, I would say this is a book that if you are a Smith fan, you probably have already read. If you are getting to know her, start with Glaciers because it is a similar pacing to Marrow Island, but it is only 100+ pages. Marrow Island is definitely worth your time.
I gave it 4 stars.
Here is your Amazon link- Marrow Island by Alexis M Smith