Any more, the sky might fall.
Nine orphan children live on an island. When the green boat brings another young child to the island, the oldest one must leave. Then, the next oldest one cares for the new little one, until it’s his or her turn to leave. That’s how it’s been for as long as anyone can remember. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Life is good on the island, almost magical. And it will continue to be good and nourishing and life-giving as long as the children follow the rules and care for one another.
I think this book is supposed to be about our world and how we live in it. We live in a world that is beautiful and full of wonder, but we’re sort of trapped on this island Earth. We don’t really know how we got here, and we don’t know where we are going when we leave. We have a set of rules, handed down by tradition or codified in books (the Bible) and stories, and we have books that give us intimations of what the world beyond this one might be like. But we don’t really know. At least from a Jewish point of view, we have the Law, and we’re not sure why we have many of the rules that are in the Law. But it’s important and life-giving to follow them anyway.
This story is also about growing up. We all have moments when we want to be like Peter Pan and never grow up, but we really have no choice. We must leave childhood and the innocence of the island and enter into adulthood. We learn the important lessons of childhood, and we take those lessons into adulthood. That grown-up life is an unknown territory, and some of us go into it with alacrity, anxious to know what’s out there in the great big world. But others enter into adulthood kicking and screaming, metaphorically speaking, longing to just stay in the simple, joyful, idealized world of childhood.
Opinions are going to be divided on this book, mostly because of the way it ends. It’s probably not a spoiler to warn you that not all of the questions you may have as you read Orphan Island will be answered by the ending of the book. In fact, you will probably be filled with multitude of questions by the end of the novel. Will there be a sequel? I almost hope not. I still remember when the writers from the TV show LOST tried to tie up the loose ends and answer all of our questions; it wasn’t pretty. I really believe that this is a book that should stand on its own with all the questions left for the reader to resolve and answer. Maybe that way some child somewhere will imagine his or her own ending, his or her own answers. That’s not such a bad thing at all. In fact, it may be the purpose of the book.
I liked it. Please come back and let me know what you think after you’ve read it.
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This book may be nominated for a Cybils Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.