Oh dear. I didn't really like this book, and frankly was tempted to forgo writing this list, since @ChrisK isn't around much (hopefully just for now). But a promise is a promise.
  1. I'll be up-front with this: I'm giving it a 6.5/10. Why?
  2. The plot: promising, but ultimately oversold and undelivered.
    The book-flap description is intriguing and full of potential: an island setting, summer romance, a tragedy that unveils deep secrets and mysteries, and a community that must band together to save a young boy from his abusive father. But somehow, despite all of this, Nissen doesn't do much with it, and the plot seems stunted. The book is long on idea, short on depth.
  3. The characters: interesting, but relatively undeveloped, and pretty unlikable. And there are a bunch of secondary characters who we only see for a few scenes and aren't even remotely integral to the plot.
    Had a feeling characters would be an issue even before I started the first chapter: Nissen included a dramatis personæ, which shouldn't be necessary for a novel of this length.
  4. The exception to these characters is Squee, the young boy whose mom passed away tragically and whose father abuses him. Nissen spends a good amount of time describing him and showing, not telling, his abuse, and reactions and emotions. My heart went out to him.
    In general, I don't always have a problem with characters who are "unlikable"—many well-written characters are pretty terrible people (Dostoevsky's Underground Man or Lev Grossman's Quentin come to mind), but the problem is that the unlikable characters here are flat and never evolve.
  5. The ending: seems at once inevitable, yet random, and while I kept wondering when it was coming, the ending Nissen wrote felt randomly introduced and then rushed.
  6. The main love story: unconvincing. Suzy returns to her island home after decades away, with her young daughter in tow, for apparently just free rent and because she has Summer's off (she's a teacher) and it's better than the alternative. She reconnects with Roddy Jacobs, who had a crush on her in high school...
  7. They have about 3 short convos before they end up in bed together, and then can't get enough of each other and are suddenly in love. Suzy is always leaving her daughter with the Lodge employees so she can be hook up with Roddy. While I felt kind of happy for them, mostly it seemed hasty and at times irresponsible, and even pointless.
    Their one redeeming quality as a couple is the love they have for Squee, and how they do genuinely have his best interests at heart. Roddy, especially, comes to care for the boy as his own.
  8. The secondary love story: an 18yo Irish girl comes to work at the Lodge on the island for the summer. Her interests in one boy, who doesn't treat her well, quickly are gone (good for her), but she oddly attaches herself to Squee's asshole father. She wants to ins the good in him, which at first is admirable and then is beyond frustrating.
    She's too smart for that, and yet. Due credit to Nissben, there's a rape scene that is written in enough detail without being gratuitous, and that clearly delineated the assaulter as he bad guy. But, infuriatingly, when this same bad guy gets his due, it's for other reasons, and he is never really brought to justice for this, or a number of other horrific things he has done.
  9. There's a lot of birding language, and I appreciated the history of the island that Nissen gives and the imagery she creates through the thorough use of Ospreys as a species. But the Osprey related snippets from various sources that heads each chapter gets a little old after a while, and I skipped reading them all together about halfway through.
  10. There are some things I enjoyed about the novel. Nissen's writing is sharp, and certain scenes are striking. She gives readers some insightful moments. But overall, the novel fell short of its potential.
  11. All this being said, many people on Goodreads disagree with me and gave it 3/4 stars. So if anyone wants it, I'll send it your way.