By: Sarah McCoy
Published: May 10, 2022
Publisher: William Morrow
Mustique Island is an actual private island nestled in the Caribbean. I had no idea it was an actual place until I read the author’s note at the end of the book. I would suggest reading that first as it might offer you a different experience to the novel which is based on real residents and guests of the island. “Mustique” comes from the French word for mosquito and unfortunately, the mosquitos are quite prevalent on the island even contributing to the spread of fever among the residents and guests.
Willy May Michael left England in her boat, Otera, and ended up docking on the shore of Mustique Island just for a respite. After a divorce and then the death of her ex-husband she needed an escape and some time to herself away from the gossip. Her two adult daughters, Hilly and Joanne, were off on their own…Hilly’s modeling career and Joanne in college. But, she immediately falls in love with the community, the eccentricity, and the beauty of Mustique and decides to build her own home, Firefly, on the island.
But that’s the thing with love, it wasn’t a concrete material. It needed room to grow. Cemented in place it died.
It’s 1972 (actually the year I was born) and Willy May is ready for a fresh start. The book begins with Willy May’s story and then moves on to Hilly’s and then Joanne’s. McCoy’s novel is a mother/daughter story of loving and letting go as well as a story of two sisters who even though apart as adults are connected by a bond stronger than steel.
“Whatever it is, make up. You’re sisters first.”
Joanne regretted saying what she had to Hilly, even if she believed it. You couldn’t take back words and some, even true ones, were better left unspoken.
McCoy places the reader in the middle of fanciful parties, nights lit up by fireflies, and extravagant meals fit for a princess. Yes, an actual princess. Princess Margaret makes several appearances on the island as well as the Jaggers and Gourmet magazine. The costumes, the gossip, and the flamboyance at these parties were a delight to read. There is a point early on in the novel when Willy May steps into the sea and the description of that experience was such a visceral one that made me yearn for the ocean.
The novel gave me a bit of a Great Gatsbyesque feel at first with Colin’s character reminding me a bit of Daisy. But, the story was so much more…full of romance and heartbreak as well as tears of joy and tears of sorrow. I became immensely invested in the lives of the three Michael women and the ending left me quite satisfied.
“Home is never really a place,” said Titus. “It’s something you make inside yourself. I may not be where you are, but I am there.”
The pacing of the story was perfect and even though sections focused mostly on one character, the story still moved along without any back and forth or repetitive scenes. I appreciated McCoy’s attention to the characters as they changed and developed throughout the story. I didn’t like Hilly very much when I first met her but I grew to love her as the novel made me understand her.
Nothing in life was one or the other. Not really. Everything was both. It depended on how you looked at it. That was the choice.
As I sit pondering this novel, I am realizing even more how much I loved it. It transported me back in time to an era that I have fond memories of growing up. It took me to a place that is magical and yet very real and vividly imprinted on my mind. Finally, it reminded me that family means everything and as a mom, it can be difficult to give our kids wings while hoping that they will return and be the kind of adults you always dreamed they would be.
I first learned about Sarah McCoy in one of the stories she contributed to GRAND CENTRAL: Original Stories of Post War Love and Reunion back in the summer of 2014. I am thankful to have read more of her work and look forward to reading more in the future.