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An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake
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An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  95 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
Smith Island is a marshy archipelago in mid-Chesapeake Bay, nine miles from the mainland, home to 150 watermen and their families. This book is a portrait of a people who have remained intimately connected to the place in which they live, far past the time when "place" and "nature" any longer have immediate consequence to most of our lives. Tom Horton lived for nearly thre ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 27th 1997 by Vintage (first published June 1st 1996)
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Jul 31, 2013 Caroline rated it it was ok
It's unfair for me to review this book as it was just not for me. I have no interest in reading about crabbing techniques or making eight layer cake. There's not much else to do on Smith Island.

Smith Island may be a wonderful tourist destination, but it does not make for interesting reading.

Jan 27, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-bay
Interesting and surprising look at life on Smith Island that ranks right up there with Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay and Skipjack: The Story of America's Last Sailing Oystermen on my list of favorite books about the Chesapeake Bay. The stories and vignettes float this way and that, making it an easy book to read in fits and starts. I enjoyed the chapter on women's lives and the struggles to move from picking crabs in home kitchens to a state-approved crab picking coo ...more
Paul Haspel
The title is a fine play on words. Smith Island, Maryland, is "an island out of time" in the way it seems to stand outside of time, with the islanders' lives of work, prayer, and community seeming relatively unchanged by the ever-accelerating pace of modern life. At the same time, Smith Island may be running "out of time"; the oyster beds on which watermen used to depend for wintertime income have continued to decline, pollution continues to take a toll on the rich biodiversity of the Chesapeake ...more
Fifteen years ago, Tom Horton published a book about his time living on Smith Island which is in both Maryland and Virginia. He actually moved there in 1986, so the three years that Horton was writing about is more than 20 years ago.

This is a wonderfully written book. Horton helped me to see the island without rose colored glasses. The spring, summer and fall sounds idyllic - I could move in a heartbeat. To live that close to the water, all the crab meat I could eat, the opportunities to explor
Sep 21, 2008 Kathy rated it really liked it
The author lived on tiny Smith Island in Chesapeake Bay for three years and gives a detailed description of the island and the people and their way of life that appears to be dying. Almost everyone who lives there is a "waterman", seeking oysters, crabs & fish to make a living. Many islanders are descendants of the original British settlers and speak a quaint dialect of their own. For children, the island is a safe paradise but there are no jobs as they grow up unless they want to emulate th ...more
Aug 21, 2016 Sharon rated it really liked it
Excellent glimpse into life on Smith Island.
Dec 09, 2008 Ginacico rated it it was amazing
Excellent descriptions of the oystering, crabbing (including an entire chapter on the sex lives of Blue Crabs - cool!), and fishing operations that have kept Smith Island alive while challenging common wisdom about Chesapeake Bay preservation. Tom Horton writes wonderful character descriptions about the island inhabitants, and how their culture sustains them despite the challenges they face. A must-read for anyone who loves the Bay.
David Ryan
Feb 20, 2016 David Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read!
Nov 12, 2008 Jeshka21 rated it it was amazing
A great memoir and close to my heart as someone who lives on the Eastern Shore and has spent a lot of time in different areas on the Shore. Tom moved with his family for 3 years to Smith Island, a notoriously close-knit and private crabbing community. Definetely a good read in a documentary kind of way.
Mar 25, 2008 Amber rated it liked it
It made my visit to Smith Island much more meaningful. I had the opportunity to meet people/see places I had read about in the book. If you visit Smith Island, I highly recommend staying at the Inn of Silent Music.
Oct 28, 2008 Bob rated it liked it
This book is a must read if you are planning on visiting Smith or Tangier Islands, very unique places in today's America. We visited on our boat and it has been the best place in the Chesapeake.
Matt Tillett
Jun 21, 2012 Matt Tillett rated it it was amazing
A mixture of anecdotes, personal observation and transcripts of primary sources, this excellent book is a must-read for those of us with vetted interest in Chesapeake Bay conservation and history.
Mar 08, 2015 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just a beautiful, evocative book. Joins the list with Skipjack and Beautiful Swimmers of the amazing, lyrical books about the Chesapeake Bay and its people, animals and culture.
Jan 20, 2016 Galadriel rated it it was amazing
So far, I'm completely entranced by Horton's writing; his description of blue crabs' love making (not mating!) is stunning.
Sharon Gentile
Awesome read, have visited the island and can relate to most of what the author talks about in this memoir.
Didn't finish, other stuff got in the way, but do want to come back to it, as it was a great story so far.
Aug 02, 2011 Renee rated it really liked it
A must read for those who lived and loved the Chesapeake .
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