Chicago Tribune Hot Reads for the Summer
Doubleday Book Club Selection
"Enders is a short story writer whose foray into the novel format makes for a compelling read. Polly Birdswell has worked diligently to separate herself from her alcoholic family and haunting past. She gave up custody of her daughter, Monroe, and moved to coastal Maine in order to get her life together. But Polly's heart belongs to Bride Island, a family retreat off the Maine coast. Its landscape, despite containing only a raggedy old house, invigorates and calms Polly's soul. When her mother decides to sell Bride Island, Polly realizes she must take action and try to claim it. This battle makes Polly move toward regaining custody of Monroeand regaining trust in and acceptance of herself. From alcoholic families and divorced parenting, all the way to a harrowing family secret, this novel covers a plethora of domestic tribulations. Polly is a truly imperfect person who is trying her hardest to make her life mean something. It's a difficult road and a lovely read. For most fiction collections."
Beth Gibbs, Library Journal
"In a "Note to Booksellers" in a review copy of Alexandra Enders' first novel, her editor states that "there is an evergreen audience for this type of paperback women's fiction." Plume, a member of Penguin Group, is counting on that audience's hunger for fiction dealing with family and home.
It would be a shame if potential readers were discouraged from reading Bride Island, however, if booksellers relegate it to the chick lit shelf and if publicists continue to include it in a category of novels whose characters are one-dimensional (and that dimension Twenty-first Century Saint), whose plots are predictable, and whose suspense never rises above When Will They Do It? Because Enders has written a book far more complicated than any label will describe.
For one thing, the narrator is no Goody Penny Loafers. Polly is a recovering alcoholic, ever tempted to drink; she relinquished custody of her only child, her daughter, Monroe, when she felt unable to care for her, and sees her only for a brief time in the summer.
Then there's Polly's family: her often drunk mother and stepfather; her charming wastrel brother, her sister and conniving brother-in-law. The fourth sibling, Colin, who drowned many years before when all the children were young, haunts Polly, Bride Island, and the entire novel.
Although Polly's history is revealed slowly, Enders gets the reader involved immediately in the tangled dynamics of Polly's family. These are not the Cleavers, and they don't always wish each other well. Conflicting desires for the fate of Bride Island, as well as conflicting versions of the past, pit parents and siblings against one another. Polly's path is strewn not only with problems of her own making, but also with pitfalls dug by those closest to her. The arguments that rage over the best use of the island, over possibilities for development of this pristine environment, should ring true to every Maine residentand especially those who live in areas threatened by rapid change. Enders constructs a taut plot, controlling her characters and conflicts nicely. She also makes good use of myth (the Demeter/Persephone myth is especially effective), legend, and the stories that Polly makes up for Monroe. One of them involves bravery, and we quickly see that Polly's own need for courage is a major theme in the novel, as she confronts her addiction, her history, her resentment and anger. The resolution, never entirely assured, has the satisfying ring of truth to it.
Polly's position at the end of the novel will resonate with many parents, both men and women, who have experienced divorce and problems arising out of child custody. To call it "women's fiction" is to deny the experience of one half of every divorced couple."
"Enders writes with such bone-deep honesty we know from the opening pages that it is winner take all."
Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of The Ocean
"Bride Island has a freshness and a quiet power that takes you unawares and won't let go. It is taut and moving, quirky, wise, often funny, and finally deeply surprising. Enders' instincts are sure and her powers of observation wickedly acute. In this brave and impressive debut novel, she takes some big risks and finesses all of them."
Beth Gutcheon, author of More Than You Know and Leeway Cottage
"Bride Island is a strong and beautiful book, full of the power and beauty of the Maine coast and the power and beauty of the family. Enders has a compelling voice, a meticulously observant eye and a deep understanding of the world of emotional engagement. This is an impressive debut."
Roxana Robinson, author of Sweetwater and This is My Daughter