In this novel, Abby Geni tells the story of Miranda, a nature photographer, who has been granted yearlong residency on the wild and isolated Farallon Islands which are located thirty miles off the coast of San Francisco. The only other human inhabitants on the islands are the few biologists who live and work on the archipelago. The Farallon Islands are home to over 400 species of seabirds including puffins and cormorants. The resident biologists also study the seals, sea lions, great white sharks and humpback whales which congregate on or pass by the Farallons.
Miranda initially finds herself socially and emotionally isolated from the six biologists. The isolation is a feat given the fact that they live in close physical proximity to one another while sharing the one habitable cabin on the islands. In fact, the biologists mistakenly call her Melissa instead of Miranda during her stay on the island and she never corrects them. Through a series of letters to her deceased mother, we learn of Miranda’s past and how her mother’s untimely death twenty years earlier when Miranda was 14 has affected her relationship with her father. We learn that her adult life has been spent traveling and photographing the world; a satisfying albeit solitary existence.
The writing is sparse and dramatic which matches both the landscape of the islands and the unfolding events of her time with the biologists. This novel was not at all what I expected. I was drawn to the novel because of my interest in nature photography but enjoyed learning much about the wildlife that the biologists were studying. This isn’t your typical summer reading beach read though.
You will quickly realize that there is more going on than meets the eye. Foreshadowing kept me on edge as this thriller progressed. I found myself thinking that I knew what was coming as the mystery unfolded but I was kept enough off-kilter that I was compelled to keep reading. I thought the writing was beautiful and the story engaging. I recommend that you add this book to your reading list.