When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day. T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family – and a stack of overdue assignments – instead of his friends.
Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island.
Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu
The above quote beautifully sums up “On the Island” by Tracey Garvis Graves because this story is just that, a story of love, strength and courage. From the first pages I knew instinctively, that is was nowhere near a typical romance. We are introduced to Anna, a 30-year-old teacher, who has finally realized her long time boyfriend is simply not going to commit. This leads Anna to take a job as a tutor for 16-year-old T.J, a cancer survivor. For Anna, this is an eight-week working vacation in the Maldives. However, while on route their plane crashes and Anna and T.J find themselves stranded on the island.
This is where their journey begins. For over 3 years Anna and T.J struggle and bond together trying to survive everything from malnutrition, sharks, and their growing attraction and love for each other. I know that most realize she is 30 and he is 16, and to be honest, I thought the same. But their relationship doesn’t develop into a sexual one until he is older and legal. The love story is a slow burn, one forged on trust, loyalty, and a deep love. A true once in a lifetime, soul mate sort of love.
I believe that the situation of Ana and T.J were forced to strengthen their bond. For over three years, they only had each other to deal with. They were each others solace, human connection, family and home. This type of relationship has a way of becoming unhealthy and co-dependent, but Ms. Graves does a fanatic job of ensuring that this does not happen with Anna and T.J. by testing their relationship both on the island and once they get rescued.
We normally read novels about older men and younger women. These relationships are accepted and condoned. I know my own mother always said to marry a man at least five years older so he can take care of me (lol). Relationships where the woman is older than the man seems to confuse and confound. I believe whole heatedly that “On the Island” teaches an important lesson; soul-mates are forever and when you find the one, you better latch on for dear life.
I give ” On the Island” 5 stars
“On the Island” is a book of lessons, lessons that you will learn while reading the book. Lessons that you ponder long after the last word has been read. Ms. Garvis Garves paints a captivating tale of struggle, hope, fear, survival, and love. It is a beautiful vignette of what love can be if you open yourself to all its possibilities. Thank you, Tracey Garvis Graves for weaving such a wonderful tale. I will leave you with this, my favorite quotes from the book.
“I don’t fit in your world.”
“Neither do I,” he said, his expression tender yet resolute. “So let’s make our own. We’ve done it before.”