Delighted to be the first stop on the blog tour for Island Life Sentence by Carrie Jo Howe so a big thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.
“Peg Savage has contractually agreed to move to Key West, Florida. The smudged signatures on the damp cocktail napkin are irrefutable proof. “An adventure…” her husband Clark says. Peg can’t swim; she’s afraid of bridges (there are 42 of them); and she doesn’t want to leave her friends. However, after a bottle of Cabernet, a move from Chicago to the southernmost city in the United States seems like the best decision ever. But now Clark has taken a long term job in Cuba and she’s on her own. Neither her dog Nipper, nor the ghosts in the attic, offer up any good advice. But how hard can it be living in paradise? Peg dives into island life but the more effort she makes, the wider her wake of catastrophes.”
Like the Key West book I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, Florida Straits, this is the story of a person from a northern US city transplanted to the alien world of Key West. This time, instead of New York the protagonist is moving from Chicago and rather than a low level gangster eager to start a new life we are following the story of a mid-life, Mid-Western woman who doesn’t want to move.
Peg is happy in Chicago with her dog, her friends and the money she and her husband have realised from the sale of their successful business. However, following a bribe, a lot of alcohol and a drunken contract written on a damp cocktail napkin (which seems to be a regular occurrence for this couple), she is persuaded to up sticks for a relaxed retirement in the Florida Keys by her beloved husband, Clark.
They find themselves in an old, Key West Conch house which may be haunted but, no sooner than they move in, Clark jets off to work in Cuba leaving Peg to adjust to their new surroundings and life alone. This is no easy feat since Peg is fairly incompetent and afraid of everything – bridges, swimming – and seems incapable of coping with the simplest every day task. Hence a flurry of mishaps involving poisonous frogs, paddleboard yoga, deadly coconuts and a disastrous attempt to participate in Fantasy Fest. Even an attempt to go swimming becomes a laugh-out-loud incident and the scenario involving humidity and a clothing mishap on the way to Mass had me howling.
To begin with, Peg is a complete drip who is in total thrall to her inconsiderate husband and is incapable of doing anything on her own. She manages to alienate the very few friends she has made in Key West with her unreliability and I found her immensely frustrating but this is an important part of the story arc. Her personal journey would not have been so emotive if she had been less incompetent to begin with and I was glad by the end that she has managed to find her feet, her backbone and a way forward in her life. The culmination of Peg’s journey in her survival of a hurricane, standing up to her selfish spouse and finding her place in Key West was suitably satisfying. Her best friend, Trudy, was possibly my favourite character and I would have liked to have seen more of her. Also, gotta have a chihuahua in a tutu!
The surreal involvement of a trio of notable Key Westians in Peg’s life in spectral form may have been a strange step too far but, hey, none of this book is grounded firmly in reality so if you suspend your disbelief as far as you can and take this book for what it is – a tongue-in-cheek comedy of errors – it is a very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.
Island Life Sentence is out now and you can buy a copy here.
About the Author
After raising three boys in the suburbs of Chicago, Carrie Jo Howe now lives in Key West, Florida with her husband and her dog. Her new book, Island Life Sentence is a fictional account of an American Mid-western woman who feels like an alien in the “one human family” of Key West. Carrie Jo’s first book, Motherhood is NOT for Babies, received raved reviews, and works wonderfully as an alternate form of contraception. Her blog Florida Keys Crime Report, tells of all the goings on in the Keys, where bank robbers get away on bicycles, and perps caught with an undersized, pinched, out-of-season lobster get more jail time than drug runners. She is currently working on her second Key West book.
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