Twenty years ago, Lucie was a young girl living on an isolated island in the Puget Sound. Twenty years ago, an earthquake devastated that region, sending tidal waves that ranged all the way from the coast of Alaska to the coast of California. Now an unemployed journalist, she returns to her childhood home after receiving a mysterious letter from Katie, a fellow survivor and former best friend. Katie says she is living on Marrow Island’s “Colony”, which, following the oil refinery disaster that killed Lucie’s father the day of the quake, is supposed to be uninhabitable. Curious and with nowhere else to go, Lucie feels pulled to investigate. What she finds is beyond her wildest imagination.
Told in alternating timelines, Smith’s sophomore novel features the same gorgeous language present in Glaciers, her wonderful debut. Part eco-thriller, part environmental meditation, it is a pleasure to unravel what happened, as the novel opens with Lucie’s rescue. At times, the dual timelines – 2014 and 2016 – can be slightly disjointed, but it was nothing that deterred my reading, and it did add a nice touch of mystery. Contrary to my mild disappointment over the closeness in times, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the area as described by Smith. It’s moody and atmospheric, and her descriptions are stunning. I appreciate when a novel utilizes a character’s close connection to the environment and surrounding landscape, and Marrow Island is a prime example of this done well. It’s quite an immersive reading experience. If you love a good mystery with an added post-disaster element, think California or Station Eleven, pick this one up immediately.