On the Island
Official Stuff –
Author – Tracey Garvis Graves
Pages – 319
Publisher – Penguin
When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day. T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family – and a stack of overdue assignments – instead of his friends.
Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island.
Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.
My Rating – 4 Stars
This book made my heart hurt!
When we first meet Anna, her commitment phobic boyfriend of eight years is dropping her off at the airport. She’s about to fly to the Maldives to be a private tutor to sixteen year old T.J. He is in remission and needs to make up for all the school he missed.
After a long flight from Chicago to Male, there seems to be some issue with their connecting flight, so they have to catch a small seaplane to get to their final destination. About half way into their trip, their pilot Mick suffers a heart attack and the plane crashes into the ocean. Anna and T.J. survive but Mick does not. They wash up on a deserted island and as they have no kind of survival training, almost die of dehydration.
They very slowly adapt and learn how to survive. Sometimes it seems as though they survive by pure chance. They occasionally get lucky when something from the plane washes onto the beach. They weather storms, broken bones, sharks, contaminated water, bat bites, strange diseases and jellyfish attacks. They learn how to make fires and fish and create new dishes with breadfruit and coconuts.
They hang in there, trying not to give up hope but also trying not to get their hopes up. Eventually days turn into years and T.J. is no longer the teenage boy with a crush on his tutor. I’m sure you can guess what happens.
Honestly, when I first heard about this book, I was weirded out. She is thirty and he’s a teenager, but the relationship doesn’t start until he’s of legal age. The progression was slow and sweet. They relied on each other to survive and it’s very clear how they feel. The age thing was definitely an obstacle but I feel it was handled well. Especially at the end. Age ain’t nothing but a number baby! (ya know, as long as it’s consensual)
There were a few things I didn’t like, the whole surviving on a deserted island thing is a hard concept for me to believe (even in fiction) along with the length of time the soap and shampoo lasted and the things in Anna’s suitcase being undamaged. But those things are minor, the real story is Anna and T.J.’s relationship and I thought that was near perfect. I highly recommend.