Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

Format: E-bookontheisland
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Thomas James Callahan (T.J.)
Heroine: Anna Lynn Emerson
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 4, 2011
Started On: March 6, 2012
Finished On: March 9, 2012

Never have I been so grateful for a recommendation received from the romance discussion forum on Amazon as I was when I finished On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves. By reading the book, you won’t feel that it is a debut novel, such is Tracey’s prowess and mastery with the words that you just want to go on reading, without taking any breaks in between if you can help it.

Thomas James Callahan (T.J.) is sixteen years old and three months into remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He is on his way to the Maldives with his 30 year old tutor Anna Lynn Emerson who is to help him catch up on the months of missed school while T.J. had been undergoing treatment.

Tragedy strikes when the sea plane that is supposed to take them to the island which is their final destination crash lands, leaving Anna badly hurt and T.J. with the task of getting them safely to shore. Saying that it is a tough time that Anna and T.J. both undergo, especially during the first couple of days would be an understatement. Being from the Maldives myself, I understand how primitive conditions would be in an uninhabited island, how totally alone you can feel with nothing but the blue skies and the endless seas surrounding you. With no source of fresh water on the island, Anna and T.J.’s main problem lies in the depleting amount of fluids from their bodies. But somehow, part  through luck and partly through trial and error, T.J. and Anna make a life for themselves on the island when being rescued seems like an option that is no longer available for them.

From June 2001 till December 2004 when the devastating tsunami that wrought havoc from Indonesia to Africa serves to be the reason why they get rescued, Anna and T.J. depend and rely on each other and a relationship forms between the two, not surprising given the fact that T.J. had crushed on Anna even from the very start. Anna is the one who remains at first oblivious, for many a reason, one being the fact that she is 13 years older than T.J. For Anna, the protective instinct she has when it comes to T.J. surprises her but she doesn’t make much of it until after T.J. turns 18 and she too starts feeling the stirrings of desire when it comes to T.J. 

The way Anna and T.J.’s relationship progresses is a natural one. No lightning bolt moments in their relationship but rather it is one that is built on mutual affection, trust and a whole lot more than just a simple case of lusting for each other because it is the convenient choice. Both T.J. and Anna are characters who feel real, ones that you can relate to, ones that tug at your heartstrings as you read along. You can’t help but be invested in the outcome of their relationship, their time on the island that subjects them to the harsh reality of life and survival when there remains nothing but each other to look out for.

Being rescued brings along with it its own fair share of doubts and insecurities though both Anna and T.J. know that for them there would always be no love like the one that they have found with each other. The period of separation that they both go through was a much needed one to make their love that much more meaningful and profound and I was deeply moved through everything T.J. and Anna go through, both together and individually as well.

I loved T.J.. No surprises there. He is the kind of hero that you fall in love with immediately because there are no pretenses when it comes to him. He is the what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy and the way he grows into manhood, takes on responsibilities that would otherwise have been foreign if not for the circumstances just made him that much more appealing. He has a protective instinct that naturally comes into play with Anna, a woman he admires and crushes on from afar for far too long. When T.J. realizes the course of change Anna’s feelings towards him has taken, T.J. grabs the opportunity like everything else he does, with a zeal and zest for life that is so charming that you just fall in love with Anna right along with him.

Anna was such a lovely character as well. She is the type of heroine who doesn’t fuss around trying to become someone she isn’t. She is comfortable with who she is. Her regrets in life are ones that had driven her to take the job of tutoring T.J. in the first place. She doesn’t talk down to T.J. just because he is much younger than herself but rather treats him as an equal from the very start. Their coping mechanism for what they both go through are different, but in it lies that desolateness that is a result of the hope that diminishes as the months and years pass on by.

If I am ever to crash on an uninhabited island, I want a T.J. by my side, a man who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to lay his emotions on the line to get what he wants. When the epilogue and the beautiful fitting ending for these two lovely people came about, I was more than ready to embrace it, reveling in the blessings that life had bestowed upon two people who would remain with me forever. 

I have to warn readers like myself who are squeamish with books written in first person that this is indeed written in first person. But Tracey makes it worth your while by giving both characters equal amounts of attention to show you both their viewpoints. A nice touch I must say and I loved T.J.’s take on things. With characters I loved wholeheartedly, this gushy review is a testament to just how much I loved the story. And the story taking place in Maldives? The icing on the cake. 

Beautiful, poignant and real, On the Island is a novel not to be missed! I smiled, I laughed, I cried and I sighed with everything that is in me. There is nothing more you can ask from a book. Grab yourself a copy and indulge – I dare you!

Favorite Quotes

[T.J.] If she had gotten sick, the only thing I could have done was watch her suffer. Bury her next to Mick when she died. I didn’t know if I could make it without her. The sound of her voice, her smile, her– those were the things that made living on the island bearable. I held her a little tighter and thought if she woke up I might tell her that. She didn’t though. She sighed in her sleep, and eventually I drifted off.

[Anna] In February, I woke up from a nap. A bouquet of flowers gathered from the various bushes and shrubs scattered around the island lay on the blanket beside me, a small length of rope wound around their stems.
I found T.J. down at the shore. “Someone’s been checking the calendar.”
He grinned. “I didn’t want to miss Valentine’s Day.”
I kissed him. “You’re sweet to me.”
Pulling me closer, he said, “It’s not hard, Anna.”
I stared into T.J.’s eyes, and he started to sway. My arms went around his neck and we danced, moving in a circle, the sand soft and warm under our feet.
“You don’t need music, do you?”
“No,” T.J. said. “But I do need you.”

[T.J.] I pulled my arms out from underneath her body and tucked her hair behind her ears. “I love you, Anna.”
The surprised look on her face told me she hadn’t seen that coming.
“You weren’t supposed to fall in love,” she whispered.
“Well, I did,” I said, looking into her eyes. “I’ve been in love with you for months. I’m telling you now because I think you love me too, Anna. You just don’t think you’re supposed to. You’ll tell me when you’re ready. I can wait.” I pulled her mouth down to mine and kissed her and when it ended, I smiled and said, “Happy birthday.”

[T.J.] I kissed her as soon as we were inside her apartment, and I wasn’t gentle about it, holding her face firmly in my hands and pressing my lips hard against hers. She wasn’t anyone’s to own – I knew that – but right then she was mine.

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