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These Granite Islands

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3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  638 ratings  ·  101 reviews
On her deathbed, Isobel -- hat maker, wife, and mother -- recalls the haunting and fateful summer of 1936 when her world was transformed. After her husband Victor takes their sons away for the summer to a remote island, Isobel meets Cathryn, a woman who will forever change the way she looks at life. An intimate story of friendship, a portrait of marriage, and a glimpse int ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 26th 2002 by Back Bay Books (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
What a gorgeously understated story. Books like this are usually overlooked in favor of those with more flash and dazzle, and that's unfortunate. There is so much more care and skill in Sarah Stonich's writing than in those slapdash bestsellers.

The author was an artist before teaching herself to write, and I was taken with her use of color throughout the story, and her artist's way of seeing that infuses every page.

The book is very much character driven, and I wanted to spend even more time wi
...more
Sherri

Thank you Jeannette for reviewing this book a very long time ago. It has been sitting on my shelf - a jewel that I am glad that I finally picked up after it collected too much dust.

The author has written a beautiful novel that captures life in various stages of its journey: courting, marriage after children, friendship, loss and longevity. The story takes place primarily in the 1930s in a small town in Northern Minnesota. However, the author advances the story by using the main character's memo
...more
Joyce
May 11, 2012 Joyce rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all my friends
I thought it was great! I almost quit reading in the beginning, but something made me pick it back up and finish it (in 1 day). All the previous reviews will tell you about the story, but I'll mention what it was - a life and love story of a talented woman who lived to be very old. I'm not sure why this book hasn't made best seller lists. It touched on those things that were important in life, the little things like "using the edge of your nightgown to wipe a nursing baby's mouth. I thought it w ...more
Jodie
Jun 19, 2011 Jodie rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
Told through a present day, almost death bed narrative and flashbacks, we go back through the story of two women and their friendship (there is a little mystery here, but it was kind of obvious), plus their lives with their families. It does have a kind of Notebook feel (not really my style). There is some really lovely prose, the setting was also engaging, but I just found myself bored at only 100 pages in. To be honest, I probably should have put it down as I just did not feel any emotion for ...more
Judy
Nov 19, 2010 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys lovely prose and stories about close friendships between women
This was a really beautiful story of a woman's life. Isobel is a lovely, likeable, and heartbreaking character. This book was beautifully written -- simple and yet not simple, so lovely in imagery and emotion. The location, the town, the scenery, were as much a part of the story as the people. I cried at the end, and that's something I rarely do. It really hit a nerve. I'm not even sure where I heard of this book, but I'm glad I did. By the end of the book I wanted so much to go spend some time ...more
Teela
These Granite Islands, by Sarah Stonich was one of those books that I developed a love hate relationship with. I really didn't want to continue reading it all after the first 50 pages or so because you knew this was gonna be a sad story,but I couldn't put it down. Isabel endeared herself to me because of her hang-ups, her worrysome spirit, and then of course the results of having a stroke, the horribleness of not knowing what is really now and what is in the past. But then this confused me some ...more
Teela
These Granite Islands, by Sarah Stonich was one of those books that I developed a love hate relationship with. I really didn't want to continue reading it all after the first 50 pages or so because you knew this was gonna be a sad story,but I couldn't put it down. Isabel endeared herself to me because of her hang-ups, her worrysome spirit, and then of course the results of having a stroke, the horribleness of not knowing what is really now and what is in the past. But then this confused me some ...more
Beth
From her hospital bed, 99 year old Isobel Howard is remembering her life, especially the summer of 1936. That was summer that she met Cathryn, a Chicago heiress, beautiful and artistic, who is spending the summer in Cypress, Minnesota, the mining town where Isobel and her family live. Isobel's husband, Victor (a tailor), has taken their two boys to spend the summer on the island that he's purchased, and Isobel is alone with her shy daughter, Louisa.

Cathryn stumbles upon Isobel in the tailor sho
...more
Karen
While reading this book, I'll admit, there were times when I thought I couldn't go on.

Not because it was poorly written, but sometimes I found it difficult to follow and often wondered where it was all leading.

By the end of the book I was glad I had stuck with it and was wiping tears away.

I suddenly understood my grandmother so much better...

If you're thinking of reading this book, give it a try. It's often nebulous and a bit vague but you'll understand why as you continue. Do as I did and stay
...more
Julie
I loved this book so much. It was my first book for the vacation and so perfect to read up north. After this and Vacationland, Sarah Stonich is just my favorite.
Lois
Granite Islands is an intimate story of friendship, a portrait of marriage, and a glimpse into the depths of loss. The events of the summer of 1936 become the prism that refracts the essence of Isobel’s life. It is then that Isobel meets Cathryn, a woman who will forever change the way she looks at life. The story follows Isobel into old age with respect and eloquence. The story stayed with me for a long time.
Amber Foxx
The story is intimate, and the author intensely aware of what makes a life fully lived, from the sensations and sights to the books and ideas, to the depths of love—all loves, not just romantic love. It isn’t always pretty—age and disability, grief and death, are as vivid as the shores of the Great Lakes and the life and work of a milliner and a tailor in a small town. Isobel loves her husband, children, friends, work, garden, and poetry, and these feelings and experiences are rendered in words ...more
Patti Thomas
I really liked about 3/4 of this book. I loved reading about Isobel and her relationships with her family members and with Cathryn. I have to say the last bit of the story dragged for me. It seemed to take a long time to "end." Having grown up near the area this book was set, it was fun to read about places I've been. Overall, I really liked this book.
Anna
Aug 24, 2014 Anna rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Olga Platz
Olga recommended this novel to me. Interesting story; somewhat similar to Evening by Susan Minot but no stream-of-consciousness. Easier to follow; fewer characters. The setting is 1936 Minnesota. Life was very different. Isobel encounters so much loss in her life, but she lives to be 99!

Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Would like to re-read.
Ann
The premise--a woman on her deathbed obsessing over a friendship formed decades earlier in a small Iron Range town and her collusion in said friend's disastrous scandal--seems a bit Lifetimey, but the descriptions of family life, especially the ebb and flow between husband and wife, ring true.
Wendy
So much to analyze here…life death breathing not breathing water thirst paddling drowning fabric/clothes texture stone softness parenthood loving…oh my. this is not a happy read but uses lovely metaphors for the trials of life
Jenny
An absolute gem, took me a while to read it, not because the book was difficult - just me finding the time to read it. A few days off has made it easier! Loved it and look forward to reading more of Stonic's novels.
Paulette
Another good one by Stonich. Set on Superior's North Shore. A dying women recalls the summer of 1936, the summer that changes her life. Explores friendship, marriage and loss.
Rebecca
What an amazing book. I have never experienced a book quite like it. The writing took me on a journey I did not expect. So vivid. Highly recommend.
Sarah
Aug 26, 2008 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)
Right, well I wrote it, so...
Rhonda
Fantastic!
Marty
I've had this book on my shelves for over 10 years. It was great to finally read it.

Isobel Howard is bedridden in a St. Paul hospital, suffering from the aftermath of a stroke. Failing physically but still mentally sharp at 100 years old, she begins to recount the events in her life to her only living son, Thomas. The plot alternates between her present situation and her past, a past that Thomas knows little or nothing about.

It's 1936 in Cypress, Minnesota and young Isobel is at an emotional cr
...more
Liz
Mar 31, 2014 Liz rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Liz by: Olga Platz
Olga recommended this novel to me. Interesting story; somewhat similar to Evening by Susan Minot but no stream-of-consciousness. Easier to follow; fewer characters. The setting is 1936 Minnesota. Life was very different. Isobel encounters so much loss in her life, but she lives to be 99!

Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Would like to re-read.
Elaine
I didn't find anything special about this one. Cultured and from the city, without being asked, Cathryn begins helping Isobel clean her husband's shop and set up a millinery, putting in lots of hours and without pay. They become friends and Cathryn confesses to Isobel of a long-time affair she's been carrying on. She asks Isobel to be the lookout for her during her trysts, in case her husband returns early from one of his jobs or business trips.

"These Granite Islands" is Isobel's look back on h
...more
Irene
Bought this ages ago at a yard sale and finally picked it up off the shelf last weekend. Reminded me a bit of The Notebook -- a moving story of love, family and loss -- as told from the perspective of an old person nearing death. Except in this case, Isobella is totally coherent at the age of 99,and it's just the retelling of stories from a fateful summer years ago to her son that sheds light on what might have happened, been misunderstood, or the level of suffering/pain/guilt endured.

We get an
...more
Janet
A book that I would never pick to read if it had not been chosen for our bookclub. Published and set in MN, so I could relate to the setting. Not my style of choice, but well written and it did keep my attention. Written when women was dying with flashbacks to the 1930's.
Laura June
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Teresa
This is the story of an elderly woman on her deathbed relieving the memories of her life. It examines her relationships and events that made a big impact in her life. Whilst this story was touching and the characters were likable. I found it a bit confusing as it jumped from present to past without much notice.
Marie
Even though it took 10 months to read - I did like this story told in flashback form. The story of the Howard family is often warm and often tragic. There is one spot in the book that I hope will remain with me for a long time. She talks about how scared a mother is as she watches her infant breathe at night. She said strangers or any other horror film scenarios don't scare her ... it is the irregular breathing of her baby that scares her the most. The thing I truly liked about this book is that ...more
Sara
This is probably one of the best books I read this summer. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's one part mystery, one part family saga, one part memoir, several parts character study, and just plain well-written. Every one of the characters is clearly drawn. None of the story was predictable from what went before. It plays with time, and memory and relationships, along with situations that have the power to change our lives--situations we don't even realize will have the impact they do, perhaps until i ...more
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The author of internationally acclaimed books,"Vacationland","These Granite Islands" and "The Ice Chorus", novels that have left their marks on readers around the world, having been translated into eight languages - most recently into Czech. Visit her web site for reviews and info. Sarah's new memoir, "Shelter" is now available in both ebook and hardcover.
Sarah writes and lives in Minnesota with h
...more
More about Sarah Stonich...
Vacationland The Ice Chorus Shelter Fiction on a Stick: New Stories by Minnesota Writers

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