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Island Fog by John Vanderslice

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Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 288 pgs
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Island Fog by John Vanderslice is a collection of short stories placed in chronological order beginning in 1795 on Nantucket, Mass., through 2005.  These stories are dark and oppressive, and one of the most harrowing is “Taste,” which is likely to have some readers’ stomachs churning.

“Physical assault is a vaporous threat that gravitates around his being like the afternoon fog infecting the harbor.  A threat that, unlike the fog, never actually takes body.” (from “Guilty Look”, pg. 18)

“More than that, William said he could not live trapped in a nuthouse anymore.  ‘This island,’ he said to you, and you were not to take this personally, ‘feels like some mad doctor’s lab experiment.'”  (from “How Long Will You Tarry?”, pg 124)

Vanderslice weaves in the economic and social history of Nantucket to demonstrate the insular nature of an island and how dynamic it can be, despite that isolation.  The tension between Congregationalists and Quakers in colonial times is vibrant and engaging, as are the struggles of a young wife whose husband is lost at sea, but the overall collection is a mixed bag.  While the author strives to depict the disappointing pasts of characters on the island and their desires and hopes, the overall feel of the collection is one of a harsh island life that sometimes can feel like a prison to those who are native to the land and those who are merely visitors.

Island Fog by John Vanderslice is about peeling back the shroud of our neighbors lives and engaging with their personal lives in ways that many of us never expect.  The secret desires we harbor and the past transgressions we hide from even ourselves are revealed in these short stories, but beneath the fog is the desire to hope, the need to reach for something better than we have — even if in the end it is disappointing.  The collection would generate lively discussions in a book club.

About the Author:

John Vanderslice teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Arkansas, where he also serves as associate editor of Toad Suck Review magazine. His fiction, poetry, essays, and one-act plays have appeared in Seattle ReviewLaurel Review, Sou’wester, CrazyhorseSouthern Humanities Review1966, Exquisite Corpse, and dozens of other journals. He has also published short stories in several fiction anthologies, including Appalachian Voice, Redacted StoryChick for a DayThe Best of the First Line: Editors Picks 2002-2006, and Tartts: Incisive Fiction from Emerging Writers.  His new book of short stories, Island Fog, published by Lavender Ink, is a linked collection, with every story set on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.

  • trish

    I need to know what “Taste” is like! Your description of it as being harrowing and how it’s lingered with you has me really intrigued!

  • HeatherTLC

    I can see this book being a great one for book clubs. Thanks for being on the tour Serena!

  • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

    Sorry the second half of the book didn’t excite you as much as the first half. It does sound interesting, though.

    • The first have was great, the second half some were great and others were OK. Nothing bad, though. I still have that story “Taste” stuck in my head! Gruesome! Not overtly, but the thought of it

  • bermudaonion(Kathy)

    I do enjoy stark stories like this at times so I’d be willing to give this collection a try.

  • John Vanderslice

    Thank you for the shout out, Serena. I appreciate your careful reading of the book.