J.A. Rock's Reviews > The Island

The Island by Lisa Henry
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Jun 02, 12

Read in January, 2012

I’ve wanted to write a review of this book for a while, but it’s hard to find something to say that hasn’t been said already. The Island really is as good as people say it is. It’s intense, dark, beautiful, suspenseful, and very moving.

Like many other readers, I had to read it all in one sitting. I didn’t plan for it to happen that way, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. Perhaps what impressed me most about the book was the way Shaw was written. Having Shaw as a hero reminded me a bit of watching the show Dexter—I love Dexter as a character, I root for him, but when other characters start putting their trust and hope in him, I get all kinds of nervous. He may not be a killer of innocent people, but he is a killer. And his number one rule is to protect himself first.

Shaw may not be a rapist, but he’s a man who will stand by while rape happens to avoid compromising his own agenda. And to have Shaw be the best thing Lee has on the island, to see Lee develop this trust and hope in a man who can’t afford to protect him, is terrifying. But because Shaw is so brilliantly drawn, so complex, so real, and able to allow himself the occasional show of tenderness, he somehow became the person in whom I placed my hope and trust, too.

And it’s thanks to Lee that I wanted to shake Shaw and order him to be a hero. Because it’s easy to sit here and say that, hypothetically, yes, in some cases it might be worth sacrificing one life for the greater good. But because Lisa Henry puts us inside Lee’s head just enough that we get to know that one life that’s going to be sacrificed, the idea of that sacrifice becomes devastating. Lee evokes a great deal of sympathy, but he is so much more than a broken victim. He is brave, strong, and loyal. Two of The Island’s most poignant moments take place in Lee’s POV—one at the end of the very first section we get in Lee’s POV, and another when Lee prepares to face the most horrifying night of his life.

I have to mention the ending as well. In a genre that usually requires a happy ending, it can be difficult to navigate a HEA for a relationship like the one portrayed in The Island, where the participants are not equals when the relationship starts. Lisa Henry chooses to devote quite a bit of time to Lee’s recovery and reestablishment of himself as a free person, and it’s because she takes the time to do this that the ending works so well for me.

Lee’s therapist, discussing the connection Lee forges with Shaw on the island and Lee’s lingering attraction to Shaw, asks him: “Do you think that it could in any way be an even relationship?” I can’t say enough about how much I appreciated the acknowledgment of this question—a question that never quite gets answered. I do believe that Shaw and Lee are the only ones who will be able to see each other for who they truly are—who can truly understand what happened on the island—and I absolutely rooted for them to end up together. But I don’t know that it ever really can be an even relationship.

It’s the book’s complexities, from start to finish, that make The Island such a fantastic read. So let me throw my two cents in and say, if you haven’t read it yet—do it.
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