A Daughter of the Island is the historical saga of a woman who chooses to live outside the norm. Sharon Bowman’s debut novel is set in Casco Bay, Maine in the mid-to-late 1800s. The story centers around Jane Bates, who is truly a singular woman. The novel begins with her leaving Hope Island for what once was her Aunt Nancy’s home on the more remote Bates Island. Jane has been in an out-of-wedlock relationship, resulting in three daughters. But now that union has ended. Jim has decided to marry someone else. Thus, Jane, her pride sorely wounded, takes her daughters from Hope to her ancestral home on Bates.
Unlike other women of her day, Jane wears overalls and can sail a boat as well as any man in the islands. She and her daughters tend the fields, bring in the crop, set the lobster traps, and prepare for the harsh Maine winter to come. But tragedy strikes her family and Jane must square her shoulders, stare it in the eye, and somehow carry on.
A Daughter of the Island is a compelling story of a woman who faces hardship time and time again, but through strength of character, does not surrender. Years pass, a girl dies, and a mystery quickens which grabs hold of the reader and does not let go until the final pages.
Finally, there is another character author Bowman describes beautifully in this novel: the islands themselves. So vivid are her descriptions that I could almost smell the salt air and feel the chill of the fog rolling in over an angry sea.
In summary, I loved this novel. For me, it was a slow feast of words, emotions, and memory. Based on a true story, A Daughter of the Island is highly recommended for those who love historical sagas and stories that feature strong, resilient women.
PS – I absolutely love the cover image!