Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Owl Island by Randy Sue Coburn

Owl Island is a novel set on a made-up island in the San Juan Islands. If you have ever been to these islands, northwest of Seattle, you know how beautiful they are. A ferry ride during the summer to any of the islands might result in views of bald eagles, seals, or maybe even orcas, and on a clear day you will definitely see snow-capped mountains in the distance. Owl Island captures the island lifestyle with the small towns where everyone knows your business and the idea that being on an island intrudes into every aspect of your life.

I enjoyed reading this novel simply for the setting, but the story was also intriguing. Phoebe Allen makes a living making and fixing fishing nets on Owl Island. The author makes what must be tedious work sound fascinating: “But there was a lot about her work that couldn’t be duplicated. Crews counted on the strength of her knots, the precision of her measurements. When a trawl net came back to her torn, she would ponder the damage like a puzzle until she figured out how to make an improvement along with the repair.” (pg 56) The story focuses on Phoebe’s life now and her past life. Phoebe’s mother, Pearl, died when she was relatively young and Phoebe has had a hard time with some of the secrets Pearl kept until the very end of her life. It was around the time that Pearl died that Phoebe became involved with a radio DJ, Whitney Traynor. It is Whit’s move to Owl Island that triggers a number of events in the present.

Phoebe also has a twenty-year-old daughter, Laurienne, who works in high tech in Seattle and only occasionally visits. It is an interesting juxtaposition of the island life and high tech life. Laurienne and Phoebe’s relationship, Phoebe’s relationships with her parents, and their relationships with current lovers are all in the mix. A great summer read especially if you are planning a trip to the San Juans!

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