As summer begins on Osprey Island, preparations at the Lodge -- the island’s one and only hotel — are underway for the busy season. On maintenance and housekeeping there’s Lance and Lorna Squire, Osprey locals and raging drinkers; and their irrepressible son Squee. There are college boys to wait tables and Irish girls to clean rooms. And a few unusual returnees, too: Suzy Chizek, single mom and daughter of the Lodge’s owners, who’s looking for a parentally funded vacation; and Roddy Jacobs, another former local, who has come back after a mysterious twenty-year absence. But when tragedy strikes, dark secrets explode, dividing the island community over the fate of a young boy suddenly more vulnerable to his violent father than ever. In the uniquely ephemeral atmosphere of a summer resort, Thisbe Nissen unfolds, with charecteristic warmth and charm, an ever-deepening story of lost loves and found romance, of loyalties and betrayals; and of lingering–sometimes fleeting–joy.
After a story collection about the dilemmas of individuals (Out of the Girls Room and into the Night) and a debut novel about the difficulties of a modern family (The Good People of New York), Nissen ambitiously takes on the weblike interrelations of an entire community with imperfect success. The Lodge at Osprey Island has been around so long that, by 1988, the lives of entire families are linked to the resort, including that of alcoholic Lance Squire, whose wife dies suddenly in a fire after falling asleep with a burning cigarette. Havoc soon follows, as Lance becomes increasingly violent and the desire to protect his eight-year-old son, Squee, from abuse unifies the island's population, sparks a romance between the resort owner's daughter, Suzy Chizek, and maintenance worker Roddy Jacobs, and forces the revelation of old affairs, abortions, rape and draft dodging. Nissen's sharp snapshots of family dynamics and her frank depiction of sexuality are affecting, and her novel offers many fine, insightful moments. But the love story, pushed along by frequently adolescent dialogue, never becomes entirely convincing, and the book's plotting is labored, driven by the calculated disclosure of a host of dark secrets.