Published by Penguin on August 6th, 2012
When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family's summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day.
T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He's almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn't bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family - and a stack of overdue assignments -- instead of his friends.
Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.'s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter.
Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.'s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man
ON THE ISLAND is one of those rare and special books that just reel you in with its beautiful writing, sympathetic and wonderful characters and utterly stunning story. I admit I was a bit wary about this book, teacher-student romances aren’t something I like to read about but Tracey Garvis-Graves created a sweet, tender love story that you can’t help but fall for.
Anna is a 30 year old teacher whose life is feeling a bit stagnant. In a relationship for eight years that has reached a standstill, she accepts a teaching job for the summer in the idyllic paradise of the Maldives. Her student – T.J, a 16 year old cancer survivor who is none too happy about the prospect of catching up on missed school work on his summer vacation. When the pilot of their plane has a heart attack and dies, Anna and T.J are plunged into the shark infested waters of the Indian Ocean. Washing up on a deserted island, Anna and T.J must band together in order to survive. As days turn into weeks and months turn into years, Anna and T.J make a life they never considered possible and as T.J grows up, the couple realise that long buried feelings are threatening to surface.
This was seriously one of the most beautiful stories of survival, courage and love that I have ever read. I never expected that T.J and Anna would have been stuck on the island as long as they were and it was a true testament to the unfaltering human spirit and desire to live how they never gave up and forgetting all the technological advances they were used to, dug deep within themselves and used their creative ingenuity that is lying dormant in so many of us to create a life that was rich and fulfilling with so little. I loved reading about how they adapted to their surroundings and tackled each new hardship and problem with courage and hope. There were so many heart-warming moments in this book that made me smile and root for these two to survive.
I thought the romance was handled with a wonderful sensitivity and I loved how their relationship developed. This is definitely a slow-burn and the emotion is searingly intense. Anna and T.J have to battle against the odds so many times and their struggles on the island are only the beginning. Never has a relationship made me ache so much for it to be a success.
ON THE ISLAND is a stunning, breathtaking story of love, overcoming the impossible and believing in hope. I highly recommended!