May 10, 2022
Hardcover, ISBN-13: 978-0062984371, 324 pgs
“There wasn’t a person on earth who didn’t seek out the miraculous.”
People and places often appear excessively exquisite; however, when the gilded layer is eventually rubbed away, falsehoods can be exposed, or perhaps things even more precious than gold are revealed, such as truth and beauty.
Willy May Michaels hails from Limestone County, Texas, but leaves for England in 1943 as a new bride at sixteen, severing the delicate parental ties that were weak from the start. Willy May is never truly accepted into the fold of her British husband’s upper-crust family, and when their two daughters leave the nest, divorce and a change of scenery are the next steps in Willy May’s story. At forty-five, Willy May ultimately finds her way to Mustique Island in the Caribbean and builds a new house and a new life.
Mustique Island by Sarah McCoy is an absolute dream come true for literary enthusiasts. While the overall story is a bit more than a casual beach read for the summer months, it does have plenty of romance, flirtations, lively characters, drama, and island mystique. Mustique Island is a work of fiction, but the privately owned island is quite real, and the main tale is loosely inspired by the true-life story of a woman from Texas, Billy Ray Mitchell. The Author’s Note at the end lists a few references for readers who want to learn more about the real island, people, and events.
As royalty and celebrities alike either build an additional home on Mustique Island or simply visit to avoid the press or pressing responsibilities, the island’s owner, Colin Tennant, tries to drape Mustique in unnecessary pageantry and a thin layer of fool’s gold that never really fools anyone. Colin’s antics, which often border on slapstick, instill a bit of humor to soften the story’s sobering truth that people sometimes use the island as an escape from real life, leaving the inhabitants to manage the detritus and return to normal when visitors draw back into their reality.
Mustique Island is a relaxed, influential adventure told from the three points of view of Willy May and her two daughters, Hilly and Joanne, mainly during the 1970s. These women are often fragile and broken, but they are also strong, resilient, and determined to learn from past mistakes, love unconditionally, and embrace an uncertain future with hearts filled with forgiveness and hope. The tropical storm toward the end offers the perfect imagery of a maelstrom of change that hits hard and without enough warning to allow anyone to brace for impact―much like how the COVID-19 pandemic hit below the belt, stranding people on their own uncharted islands of near total seclusion and self-reliance. (In the Acknowledgments, the author explains how the pandemic changed the course of this novel.)
“The problem with wanting to conquer the world was that it kept moving, changing. One had to make a choice: chase it forever or stop, root, and see what grew.”
The ending is a bittersweet tonic that both increases and eases the heartache that comes from living and loving and handling the choices and changes that knock the main characters to their knees. It is also a cautionary moment for both readers and characters to view life from afar so they can see the true beauty of family, friends, and lovers and to treat those inevitable changes as opportunities to leave life’s wreckage behind rather than holding on tight to what no longer serves. Mustique Island is the perfect choice for readers looking for a true literary journey with an international flair, complete with a lingering stop on the enigmatic Mustique Island that will welcome you with its natural beauty and charm and swarms of mosquitos.
“Everyone wanted to be seen as beautiful, but not everyone was. Everyone wanted to possess special talents, but not everyone did. Everyone wanted to be the princess and the prince, but not everyone could. The End.”
Sarah McCoy is the New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author of the novels The Mapmaker’s Children; The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award nominee; and The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico. She has taught English and writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She lives with her husband, an orthopedic sports surgeon, and their dog, Gilbert, in North Carolina.