Occasionally, a book comes along that truly surprises you.
Initially, the exquisite cover art on DARWIN'S WINK drew me to it.
Then a particularly enticing description of the plot hooked me even
further. But just a few words into it, I was blissfully lost to the
story. Alison Anderson choreographed this novel with poetic
sentences. It overflows with thought-provoking passages and fresh,
stimulating ideas. The flyleaf says this book is a novel of nature
and love. I would add that it is also a novel of beauty and
happiness --- and of sorrow and strength.
Fran, a divorced American naturalist on the down side of 40,
struggles to keep the mourner bird population from extinction. The
fragile existence on Egret Island, a mere half-mile off the coast
of posh Mauritius, constantly challenges Fran's abilities. Her
assistant, a man she cared too much for, met with a mysterious
accident. Now, a young displaced Red Cross worker, Christian, has
arrived to help in her conservation efforts. He comes hoping to
heal the scars left by a horrific parting with a Serbian woman he
once loved. War tore her from him, and now he works to find a way
to forget, to find a way to go on.
Fran is working to heal her scars as well. She may be as much in
danger of extinction as the bird she has pledged to protect.
Despite a deceptive crusty exterior, she is soft inside. She opens
her heart too easily, and it is broken too often. The things she
loves frequently go away, leaving her with only bittersweet
memories. But she does have memories, and she cherishes them,
bringing them out at dusk to relive the joy they once brought
While these two souls are trying to find their own peace, at least
one person is trying to drive them from the island. And their
tactics are anything but gentle. Unfortunately --- for them ---
they don't realize the dedication they are up against. Fran
fervently believes in her work. "She accepts the inevitability of
death but refuses the inevitability of extinction." Thus, she will
fight with a fierce determination to combat island predators ---
whether they be of the four-legged or the two-legged variety. And
Christian discovers that he is afflicted with her passion.
Prepare to spend some time with this gem. It is not meant to be
rushed through, not with writing this good. A lot is packed into
its 272 pages. And, once you reach the end, I believe you will
instantly want to start over again, just to have the pleasure of
savoring the words anew.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on December 29, 2010
Darwin's Wink: A Novel of Nature and Love