Off-Island by Marlene Hauser
A brave novel that advocates a woman’s right to choose.
Off-Island by Marlene Hauser is a poignant, coming-of-age novel that treads carefully around the delicate subject of abortion with its engaging narrative and a strong central character.
Krista Bourne has always been surrounded by the strength, love and wealth of her family and their homes in New York City and Martha’s Vineyard. She has never had to think for herself. Living with boyfriend Michael and her elderly grandfather, she can also summon up the comforting ghosts of her beloved father and grandmother. In vivid dreams, she flies with her pilot father, and when awake remembers idyllic childhood holidays spent with her bohemian grandmother.
When Krista impulsively walks out on her career as a professional dancer, it is the beginning of a new chapter in her life. She feels unsettled and excited by the sense of imminent change around her. This feeling turns to panic, then fear when she realises that she is pregnant and is uncertain whether or not she wants to keep the baby, bringing her and Michael to a crossroads in their relationship isolating herself at a time when she most needs help. Krista’s journey and emotional upheaval take her back to her summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, where she is surprised to find out that she does not know her family history quite as well as she imagined.
Off-Island is a compelling story that bravely circumvents its challenging abortion angle. Krista is a complex young woman who commands the reader’s attention from start to finish as she grapples with the challenges of her unexpected pregnancy, an evolving relationship and a life-choice that she must deliberate over. This captivating coming-of-age novel expertly evokes Krista’s emotions and experiences as she is catapulted into a situation that forces her to make a difficult decision. Constantly tested, her composed inner-dancer persona wavers from determined and decisive to confused and fragile: “Krista wept. She sat on the hearth, and for the first time had a clear sense of her power to create and destroy. She felt inadequate and afraid.”
Throughout Off-Island, the scene-setting descriptions are vivid and realistic. The book takes readers from New York City to Martha’s Vineyard and back again, where a privileged Krista hopes to escape her pain in self-imposed isolation but ultimately discovers that her family history isn’t quite what she’d imagined.
Off-Island is superbly written with a bold, sophisticated and multi-layered context and structure. Its captivating narrative brings Krista to life with a host of supporting characters who surround the complex and chaotic protagonist. This powerful and thought-provoking book approaches an unjustly-taboo subject that deserves increased attention. Off-Island succeeds on so many levels thanks to its sensitivity and a powerful underlying message that women always have the right to choose.
Price: £7.99 (Paperback); £0.99 (Kindle Edition)
ISBN: 978 1789014 495
Publisher: Troubador Publishing (2017)
“Very moving story so beautifully written about making difficult life changing decisions, poignantly and compellingly addresses un-spoken issues that young girls sometimes face…”
“Off-Island may be more novella than novel in length but it packs the most enormous punch. The quality of Marlene Hauser’s writing is so sophisticated and visual that the whole time I was reading I felt resonances with Andre Gide’s Isabelle. There’s an intensity of colour and an exploration of truth and identity that I thought was similar to this Gide’s classic. The poetic nature of some passages, especially those relating to Krista’s thoughts and dreams, was very affecting. I thought the descriptions of setting were utterly beautiful.”
Linda’s Book Bag
“I really enjoyed this little novella. I read it two sittings. I didn’t know what to expect, but I found myself wrapped up in the main character’s trauma and I was willing her to come through it all safely. The writing is beautiful and I found myself transported to both New York and Martha’s Vineyard by someone who knows both places so well.”
“Off-Island paints a vivid picture of NYC and Martha’s Vineyard, as well as clearly articulating several emotionally charged events. At the same time, the author depicts the life-saving role family and friends play in successfully navigating the inevitable losses that life presents.”
You can read an extract from Off Island and get a discussion guide for the book from Marlene’s website here.
About the Author
Marlene Hauser is a professional writer who lives in Oxford and a member of the Society of Authors. She has edited The Writer’s New York City Source Book and served as Associate Producer on Under the Influence, a CBS TV movie. She also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.