Book Review – On The Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

So what is the story?  (Taken from http://www.goodreads.com)

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.


When I first looked at this book, I kind of put it one side, thought when I have nothing else to read, I will pick it up. I wish I never did that! I think I have only ever given one other book five stars, that being Water For Elephants by Sara Greun.

This story is broken down into 3 parts.

The first, you are introduced to Anna, and immediately you like her bubbly personality that hides her sadness, and then T.J is introduced and you have this feeling of sorrow for him, they meet at the airport where his parents have organised flights for them to join on a holiday in the Maldives, where she is spending her summer tutoring T.J.  I love her character, she is kind, caring, and genuine,  she has taken this job for a few different reason, thinking it will be a few weeks and she will be back to her normal life.  After weather conditions causes them to have a few hiccups in their travel plans, finally getting a seaplane to charter them, the pilot suffers from a heart attack, but what got me the most was Anna, and how that caring and genuine concern comes through in her character, she is concerned, she wants to help and most importantly she helps without thinking too much of herself. The plane crashes and proceeds to sink, Anna & T.J are the only survivors.  They have hopes of being found and for the first few days hang on to the possibility that the planes that fly overhead will see them.

Part Two of the story is the adjustment, the accepting that they now live on this island, how the two of them become bonded not only in tragedy but in the fact that neither of them would want to survive the island without the other.  Together they work on building proper shelter; they work out how to eat, gather water, keep hygienic and how to keep themselves occupied during the days.  Together they get through storms, through shark attacks and through T.J’s transition from being a 17 year old boy and becoming 20 year old man, and Anna growing older, being in her early 30ties, and how her dreams of having children and being married might never be a reality. The fear of T.J’s cancer coming back, the illness’s that are easily picked up on the island. The emotion from the two characters individually fascinates, but the emotions that the characters are when together are just electrifying.  As the days go on, Anna & T.J develop a connection that is so strong that saying they fall in love would not justify the true feelings.

Part Three, and if you don’t want the spoiler, you need to stop reading here!

One day a storm is brewing on the island, turns out a Tsunami hits the island, and Anna & T.J are finally rescued.  And now, for them to adjust back into a world that they were ripped from 4 years ago, so much changes in 4 years as they discover, Anna must deal with more sadness, T.J must deal with being a 20 year old “kid” again, together they have to adjust, wanting to help each other but Anna not wanting to hold T.J back and keep him from missing out on the life he should of been having and would still be having if they were never stranded on an island.  T.J doesn’t know how to be what is expected from him, and the journey of the two characters letting go and rediscovering their bond and now for their friends and family to adjust to who they are.

This to me is not a romance novel; it’s more a novel about change, the loss and sadness one can feel, isolation and survival, about finding out who you are when you are taken from a world you know, and finding that real human connection with someone.