The authors and titles you find on my “reading list” are the gleanings from my interest in the lives of authors, painters, sculptors, philosophers, and all those who have dedicated their lives to following their inner creative drive. My list of writers has varied widely throughout fiction and nonfiction, but my path is always, and greatly, influenced by their story-telling ability. Also, I’ve discovered that the capacity of all popular writers to consistently produce worthwhile work is limited. In this age of “there’s an ap for that” I’m beginning to feel that some of our most prolific, well-known authors are not only using their thumbs to write, but they’re also using their thumbs to think; many, I suspect, are using interns to fill in the blanks. Consequently, I have to occasionally abandon my comfortable, tried-and-true old reliables and grab someone on the list that is untested.
A writer faces a fork in the road with every paragraph and in my humble opinion readers face the same challenge with every book they pull off the shelf. This is what lead me to Allison Amend and her book of historical fiction, “The Enchanted Island”. It is a spy story set in the years leading up to and through, WWII,… but it is not your usual tale of love, mystery and adventure. Let Allison Amend take you down a road yet traveled.
All of our destinies are determined by chance, heavily influenced many times by sudden intrusions in our lives. Such was the life of Frances Conway, born in 1882 in Duluth, Minnesota, where she and her closest friend, each for their own reasons, at the age of 13, decide to run away together. Thus begins Allison Amend’s coming of age story. Each fork in the road she and Rosalie Mendel take is triggered by the bond of friendship they share. Their friendship is often challenged by their own personal drives, desires and needs.
It is 1938, in San Francisco, and we are facing the US’s entry into WWII. Our story leads Francis (working for the Office of Naval Intelligence) into a marriage of convenience to a US Naval Intelligence officer, Ainslie Conway.
Their assignment, as an undercover couple, is to monitor German presence in the Pacific Ocean from the remote island of Floreana located in the Galapagos Island chain.
Germany’s intentions in Europe are not fully known, but there is already a German presence on the island. In this small, pre-war, community friendships and dependencies are determined, not by politics, but by the necessity of social needs.
Not only is the island foreign to all, but Amend’s protagonists, Frances and Ainslie are faced with their own untested relationship.
The tale of their personal discoveries and the challenge of coping with life’s consequences is the underlying force that transports Amend’s plot through their many difficult choices and decisions that must be made for their own survival.