Review: San Miguel by T. C. Boyle
I can't remember the last time I had such a strange feeling while reading a book. From the moment I started San Miguel (Viking Penguin, 2012), I felt like I had stepped into a time-distortion machine, where everything seemed to slow down. For the first 30 pages or so, I wondered if the book would "pick up," or just plod along like the poor over-worked horses that dragged baggage and food and other items up and down the hill between the Pacific Ocean and the lonely island house. It didn't pick up, but that soon became just fine with me. And I realized that this is one of those few books that make you forget that you're reading and tricks you into believing, instead, that you're living the story.
San Miguel is a novel of historical fiction based on the lives of three women brought by their husbands or fathers to San Miguel Island, off the coast of California, around the turn of the 20th century. Both the Waters family in the 1880s and the Lester family in the 1930s confront the desolation, loneliness, and isolation of the island and their own emotional and physical struggles. And yet, despite the island's physical isolation, the outside world and its wars, depressions, and technological progress always lingers just over the horizon.
Read this if you like: - lyrical descriptions of the environment
- third-person omniscient narration
- psychological, rather than physical, action
- a fictional take on historical events
- domestic drama