San Miguel, by T. C. Boyle
(New York: Viking, 2012)
"This latest novel from Boyle (The Women; When the Killing's Done) portrays two families living and working on barren San Miguel Island off the coast of California. In 1888 Marantha Waters leaves her comfortable life on mainland California and moves out to San Miguel with her adopted daughter and husband, a steely Civil War veteran convinced that he'll have success sheep ranching on the island. Marantha is seriously ill, but instead of breathing the clean, restorative air she expected, she must live in a drafty, moldy shack in a damp environment where the sun rarely shines. Years later, in 1930, Elise Lester, newly wed at 38, moves to San Miguel with her husband, Herbie, a World War I veteran. Though Herbie has his highs and lows, they are happy, and they have two daughters. The outside world learns of their pioneering ways, and they achieve a celebrity Herbie hopes will translate into additional income. Then World War II arrives, and with war in the Pacific, their insular island location may no longer be a refuge"
"She was coughing, always coughing, and sometimes she coughed up blood."
I don't think I'll ever be quite as transported by another of Boyle's books as I was by The Tortilla Curtain, but I know that's my problem. He's a fascinating writer, very skilled technically and with recurring themes (humans vs. nature, government vs. the civilian everyman or -woman, and with the addition of this to When the Killing's Done, apparently the Channel Islands) I enjoy. Intriguing characters here, especially if they were based on real people ... which would explain why the story seems not to have much of a real ending.