For those of you who are frequent readers of Reading Other People, you know of our preferences to read innovative and refreshing takes on life instead of the staid conventions that tend to comprise the pop culture canon. Alan A. Winter’s incredibly entertaining “Island Bluffs”, there is a new welcome addition to the subversion genre movement, and we are ecstatic about it. John Grisham or Dan Brown this is not. And that’s a good thing.
At a compact 455 pages, Island Bluffs is so much more than your average thriller or mystery. Instead of exploiting the typical modes and formulas that comprise these genres, author Alan A. Winter instead opts to dissect what defines the human condition. Carly Mason and Gabe Berg, a power couple indeed, are trying to have a baby to no success. Hopeful but not unrealistic, the two learn of a scientist who may just be the resource to help them have a baby. However, this scientist is not without his own set of motives. Carly must agree to have twins, but they both won’t end up being hers. One will be biologically hers, and the other, well, let’s call it a surrogate.
Cary and Gabe must upend life as they know it and move to Island Bluffs, the isolated and Stephen King-esque town where the doctor lives. With Gabe’s rebellious 16-year-old daughter in tow, the family tries to start a new life, and a new life, but soon discover that the picturesque town is not all that it seems. Cue the thriller/mystery/horror.
Instead of falling into the traps of telling the type of story that has been told a thousand times before where it is only locations and names that are the only things that seems to change, Winter presents a refreshing and tantalizing tale on life in all of its darkness and light. Winter deftly touches upon each character’s motivation and relates that to a much bigger entity. He questions what really is right and wrong, and if there really are such clear-cut differences between the two. We zoomed through Island Bluffs in just a few days, and it has certainly earned its place on the Reading Other People mammoth bookshelf of the good ones.