*I received a free copy of this book. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Peg Savage has contractually agreed to move to Key West, Florida. The smudged signatures on the damp cocktail napkin are irrefutable proof.
“An adventure…” her husband Clark says.
Peg can’t swim; she’s afraid of bridges (there are 42 of them); and she doesn’t want to leave her friends. However, after a bottle of Cabernet, a move from Chicago to the southernmost city in the United States seems like the best decision ever.
But now Clark has taken a long term job in Cuba and she’s on her own.
Neither her dog Nipper, nor the ghosts in the attic, offer up any good advice. But how hard can it be living in paradise?
Peg dives into island life but the more effort she makes, the wider her wake of catastrophes. She is tortured by a paddle board, a giant poisonous toad, the local Conservation group, and the patron saint of hurricanes. Not to mention the persistent sweat rash under her left breast.
A tropical depression descends on the island – one that can’t be cured with medication. Peg must gather her strength if she has any hope of surviving the storm.
Island Life Sentence is a chick-lit style fish-out-of-water tale, in which an anxious married woman finds herself alone (except for Nipper the dog) and uncomfortable in a variety of increasingly bizarre situations. And heat. It’s very hot. I nearly broke into a sympathy rash myself reading about the sticky, wet, way-too-warm weather!
The humour is of the self-deprecating and slapstick kind: embarrassingly placed sweat stains and falling in the water; misunderstandings and drunken shenanigans. The plot is nominally a character development journey, but Peg doesn’t actually change much internally, which feels realistic given her age and life experience. Her escapades should be taken with a heaping pile of salt, as they are more for comedy effect than plot realism (no spoilers, so I’ll just say Ernest and Tennessee!).
As a main character, Peg is a frumpy hot-mess, similar to the middle-aged strugglers you find in Jilly Cooper novels (Daisy from Polo?), but Peg shows much more resilience than the average aging Bridget Jones. No matter how high the trials and humiliations pile upon her, Peg tackles everything with a blind optimism that things will turn out alright, despite a crippling fear that they won’t. She is almost inspirational in the way she repeatedly throws herself back out there, despite showing no evidence she is capable of anything other than first-class dog-cuddling! There is also a blundering innocence to Peg which led me to feel as benevolently towards her as I would Nipper if he peed on my leg. Neither seem capable of the levels of control and intelligence required to do any better than they are managing, bless them!
This is definitely not a book for the easily offended. There are some pretty un-PC comments (‘stinky street person’) and stereotypes (‘” . . . Cher, or Barbra Streisand, or Bette Midler or – ALL THREE”‘), which fit with the small-world mindset of Peg and her suspicion of the new and ‘other’. There were times when her nervous distaste for certain people (like the island moving men, or the homeless man) made her an unsympathetic character; almost unlikable at these times.
In general the book was a fun romp and would be especially enjoyable to those who are fond of Bridget Jones style cringe-humour.
Ever since they bought the house all those years ago, she thought the house looked like a surprised cartoon character. The top two windows opened wide-eyed, and the oval door gave the lip-like impression of someone getting goosed from behind. As she replaced the sign, she looked up at the windows. Icicles had formed tears under the shutters.
“You are not going to make me cry, Mr. House,” she said as she climbed back into the car. “But thank you for reminding me that I need to schedule Clark’s colonoscopy.”
– Carrie Jo Howe, Island Life Sentence
Island Life Sentence is out on Amazon on 6th March.