A mysterious island with secretive inhabitants, a troubled preacher, and plenty of coastal Georgia’s muggy storms are all featured in *Frank Reddy’s first novel, Eyes on the Island. Your spoiler free review? This is a damn good novel.
Will Fordham is a young preacher who has recently lost everything he ever cared about: his family, his position as a well-loved preacher, and his faith. When a long time mentor informs him of a preaching position on an island with a small artist colony, Will jumps at the chance to leave the past behind and work towards a new future. Instead, Will’s new position causes him to assess his values and finds him clinging even more strongly to the past.
I’ll leave it at that for plot. This book is best approached with fresh non-spoiler exposed eyes. I gulped down each page and wondered if there was a Lovecraftian horror lurking around the corner, or if Will was a delusional and unreliable narrator, or if a redemptive god would save Will. I didn’t know if I was reading a thriller concerning a cult or if it was a novel exposing the seedy underbelly of American church culture. With each turn of the page I was challenged to question where Reddy was taking me and it made for a thrilling ride.
Eyes on the Island is a quick and immersive read because it is perfectly paced and has excellent character development. This is not an empty fluffy thriller. In just over 160 pages, Reddy is able to weave together Fordham’s childhood, first career, marriage, and fatherhood and also provide a complex – albeit mysterious – history of the island and the inhabitants with ease. He does this by using letters, journals, and news articles while splicing together the past and present throughout the narrative. The reader is easily able to transition between time periods and gain a full understanding of Will and develop a hunger to discover the secret of the island. This fully fleshed timeline helps Will emerge as a complex and sympathetic character. Often preachers are portrayed as wholly good or wholly evil. Will Fordham is wholly human. He struggles with choosing between what is easy and what is right. At moments I doubted his sanity and veracity and at other moments I was urging him to get the hell off that island.
Slim in size and big on thrills, Eyes on the Island is an engaging and thought-provoking read. Five stars!
*Disclaimer: Frank and I go way back. As in our mom’s were friends and we played together when we were in preschool. Honestly all I remember about Frank is his mom’s rad station wagon (sorry, Frank). We caught up over Facebook, but this is still an honest review. If it had sucked I would have thought of some reason not to review it. Thankfully, this novel is bad ass. Go read it. Now. Seriously, I’ll wait right here.