In his debut novel, Andrew Ladd explores what ends when an island community disintegrates. Set on East Fior, a fictional but no less Hebridean isle, the narrative weaves its way through the lives of the last inhabitants: the family that runs the guesthouse, with three children who grow up more or less unwilling to take on the family business. Barry, Flora, and Trevor are forced to come to terms with the island life that they’re becoming locked into, struggling to reconcile their ambitions with familial responsibility.
Ladd’s prose is simple, lyrical, given free rein to explore a family saga that feels a lot fuller than might be expected from a 250-page novel. He fits in three narratives of growing up, of what it means for an island to transform from one of idyllic childhood days spent playing on the beach, in the heather, to the isolated and claustrophobic reality of running a condemned business. It’s a touching and precise examination of the family dynamic, of how things go when no one quite matches up to the expectations of other people. The question is, to what end can anyone maintain such a floundering way of life, and at what cost?