Liana is a young, transplanted Frenchwoman taken in by an older Native American when her father dies with his gold claim in the Yukon under dispute. She has learned all the many lessons that Henry taught her to survive in the cold wilderness of the North. When Henry is murdered and she flees her pursuers, she will have to rely on that training, especially when she's stranded on a deserted narrow island in the middle of the raging, icy river. The days tick down slowly and her chances for survival narrow with each day with no food and limited shelter. Liana must face the unsympathetic, cruel force of nature, all alone on her frigid island of refuge.
An Island Between Two Shores is a tale of survival that brings back my memories of reading stories by Jack London in which humans travel to the frozen North and pit their wills against the unforgiving wilderness. The story of the struggle between man and nature is not a new one. In this case, it is woman against nature. I appreciated that because gender is no factor in having the skills to survive in the wilderness. It's about knowledge, will, and sometimes just sheer luck. In this case, Liana's education in living on the land in the North comes from the best, and other than that, it's up to her wits against nature.
The writing was crisp and clear, taking the reader to this place of brutal cold and harsh elements. It had a vividly realistic feel. Williams paints a bleak picture, but there is beauty in the descriptions of nature, even at its most fierce. Liana herself appreciates the beauty of nature as she waits for the ice on the river to freeze so she can leave the island. With little to do except rest in her improvised shelter, she has time to observe it. She sees the Northern Lights and all the constellations in all their unpolluted glory. In the wilderness, man (or in this case, woman) is alone with herself and the forces of nature. Self-knowledge is unavoidable in this process. Liana's inner dialogue as the days count down and she realizes that she is growing weaker wrenched at my psyche.
This story grabbed at my gut. I wanted to keep reading, hoping all the while that she would survive, yet fearing that she would not. The sheer enormity of Liana's struggle to survive, and the bleak nature of her predicament hit home with me. I could feel the grinding ache of the fierce cold, as well as the horrible emptiness of the starvation that Liana suffered. An Island Between Two Shores will stay with me a long time. In a profound way, I identified with this young woman, who just wanted to survive the cruel, indifferent wilderness that preys on both the strong and the weak.
As much as I enjoyed this story and appreciated the writing, I felt the ending was weak and robbed this book of some of its impact because it was too quick and a bit predictable. Otherwise, this is a well-written novel. I believe those who enjoy survival tales will probably appreciate An Island Between Two Shores as much as I did.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
*Reviewed by guest reviewer, Danielle Hill.
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