Book Review: Josie Silver’s ‘One Night on the Island’ perfects small-town story

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Cleo and Mac’s story spans two continents in ‘One Night on the Island.’ (Photo courtesy of Goodreads)

Dating columnist Cleo needs a break from London. A stay on a remote Irish island in an even remoter cabin will be just the right remedy for her burnout and will let her take on her most ambitious column yet: the experience of a self-marriage, or rededication to herself, on her 30th birthday.

When the cottage is accidentally double-booked and Cleo is forced to share the cottage with Mac, an American photographer with issues of his own, her solo trip gets a lot less solo.

I could go on for days about this book, specifically the ways that Josie Silver subverts typical romance novel expectations.

When I describe the island as remote, I really mean remote — the tiny boat that functions as the only way to take people to and from the island only comes once a week, and there are no other available options for housing in the town.

This allows Silver to adapt the one-bed trope in a way that makes it more realistic. Normally, there’s no way in hell I could imagine a woman staying in a cabin with a man she just met, but what if it was quite literally the only way she could keep a roof over her head?

Also, I find that part of the reason some people stay away from romance novels is that they find them formulaic — fall in love, get separated, reunite, repeat. This book, however, is anything but formulaic. Mac has two kids back home in Boston, and part of his charm is how good of a father he is, so I was sure the novel couldn’t resolve itself as neatly as romances often do.

As I read, I was continually curious as to how Silver would reconcile all the different parts of her characters’ complicated identities. In my opinion, she does so in a way that is largely satisfying while still being unexpected.

My favorite part of the book by far was Silver’s depiction of the island’s small-town community and the rich characters she creates there. During her stay, Cleo befriends a group of women who get together to knit and trade town gossip. There is something so heartwarming about the way they all love each other and the way they accept Cleo. I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur of small-town stories, and I would venture to say Silver knocks this one out of the park.

To be honest, the relationship between Cleo and Mac is one of the least memorable parts of the story. To me, the more interesting story is about their respective self-discoveries, and the romance is secondary.

If you’re looking for an unexpected read that radiates small-town charm, try out Josie Silver’s “One Night on the Island.”