One Night on the Island by Josie Silver
Publication Date: 15 February 2022
An unexpected love story, Josie Silver’s One Night on the Island is as much a testament to the importance of self love as it is a story of romantic love. It’s about discovering who we are, how we define what home means to us, and the value of the unbreakable bonds of friendship. Cleo is a writes a column for a London magazine in which she goes on dates looking for her “flamingo”, her soul mate. Rapidly approaching thirty, Cleo decides to retreat to Salvation, a small island off the coast of Ireland, where she will reflect on her life and marry herself in a self-coupling ceremony, dedicating herself to finding her own happiness and satisfaction in life, with or without a romantic partner.
Mac is an American from Boston, also traveling to Salvation, trying to find the connections to his family’s heritage which lie on that small island. Mac is recently separated from his wife, and for nearly a year has been a weekend father to his two boys, a situation which is slowly sucking the life out of him.
Both Cleo and Mac arrive on the island on the same boat, and soon discover that they have been double-booked in the same cabin. With boat service to the island being scheduled once a week at best (unless someone dies), Cleo and Mac find themselves forced to be roommates in the small cabin.
What starts out as a contentious relationship, with both having expected that they would be living alone on the island, soon develops into a cautious friendship, and then into more. But that’s where the similarities to other romance novels end. As I was reading I was wondering where the story would end up, hoping that it wouldn’t go in a trite and predictable direction, but I also really couldn’t figure out how else it could end. Silver ended up giving us a beautiful resolution, which matches the established notes of the story perfectly. Kudos for that.
My one issue with the story, and this may just be a me issue, YMMV. Throughout this entire book, Mac is still legally married. Yes, he and his wife have been separated for nearly a year, and part way through the book Mac finds out that his wife has started seeing someone else. But we know he wants to get back together with his wife, to be a family again. That has always been his desire. So this whole love story kind of makes me itchy, even if Mac and Cleo are a perfect couple, a match made in heaven, soul mates, whatever words you want to use to describe them. For me, the fact remains that Cleo knows how much Mac misses his wife and kids, how much he wants to fix his marriage and have his family back, and in my opinion if there was even a hint of a chance that Mac could return to them after this time apart, then she should have let him be. But as I said, that is just my opinion, and it could just as well be argued that Mac and his wife are beyond being “just on a break” and that because his wife is seeing someone new that gives Mac a green light as well.
But overall this is a lovely story which may perhaps prompt the reader to engage in their own bit of self-reflection. Reflection on who we are when we strip away all of the titles with which we bind ourselves to others, titles such as husband or wife, mother or father, son or daughter, friend, employee, or any of the dozens of ways that we are tied to others’ opinions of us. If we stripped ourselves of all those other relationships, if the only opinion of our life that mattered was our own, would we be satisfied? Happy? Proud of who we are? I applaud the author for giving us more than your typical romance. It maybe not the story we expect, but it’s something more grounded in the realities of life, and I appreciated that very much.
Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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