Monday, December 31, 2018

Review: On the Same Page by N.D. Galland

Haven't we all wanted to live on an island? It sounds exotic or romantic and is generally based on what we know of the island we fantasize about during the regular season. Not too many people think about what it's like to live there in the off-season, when the weather isn't ideal, jobs might be scarce, and there's little entertainment available. But people who do or have lived on islands all year, face all the realities of island living. Some choose to stay in their communities and others move off island as soon as they can. In N.D. Galland's newest novel, a woman who left Martha's Vineyard as soon as she could must come home, take care of the irascible uncle who raised her after he falls off his roof one winter, and slowly fit her way back into the year round islander community she was once so quick to abandon.

Joanna Howes is a well-known freelance features writer in New York City who is trying to decide if she's ready to move in with her easy going boyfriend when she gets a call that her Uncle Hank fell off his roof, broke his leg badly, bruised some internal organs, and is in the hospital. He may be a curmudgeon but she immediately heads for Martha's Vineyard to take care of him, assuming that she will be back in the City in fairly short order after she gets him settled. But Hank has really done a number on his leg and Joanna is faced with a longer than planned stay. In order to keep paying the rent on her apartment, she starts to freelance at one of the two island newspapers. Then she has to start freelancing at the other one. And she has to keep her jobs separate and secret because of the feud between the papers. So Joanna Dias Howes writes about the politics and happenings on the island as Anna Howes at the Journal and she writes about the charm of the Vineyard and profiles of the people who live there for the Newes as Joey Dias.

When she covers the argument about construction of a private helipad that is escalating between the town and a wealthy summer resident, she inadvertently meets and agrees to a date of sorts with Orion Smith, the summer resident in question. Conflicted because of her job and intent on keeping everything between them ethically unassailable, she gets in deeper and deeper with Orion without ever divulging her her ties to her uncle Hank, Orion's most vociferous opponent. As Joanna and Orion spar, their relationship grows until the secret between them is bigger than the lawsuit that divides them.

Tackling issues of truth versus subterfuge, class differences, belonging, and natives versus wash-ashores, this is a love story between characters but also about Martha's Vineyard itself and what the inhabitants of the island think makes their slice of the world so wonderful. The characters all think they are considering others in their actions and opinions but in reality each is frustratingly only working in their own narrow interest. Joanna's relationship with her Uncle Hank starts out understandably (he's cranky and in pain) but goes downhill pretty quickly and while he is referred to many times as a Yankee man (and presumably a typical one at that), his sniping and griping at her is never balanced with caring unless the reader simply assumes that because he raised her, he loves her. Joanna is surprisingly insecure about herself and her writing, especially given her past moderately famous successes. Her character comes across as weak and hesitant. Her one firm stand, not accepting anything that can be construed as a gift from Orion, and therefore supplying her own food and drink every time they are together, feels more like a quirk than showing the strength of her ethics. The relationship between Joanna and Orion was a bit lukewarm and Orion repeatedly telling Joanna that she clearly wasn't a very good journalist if she was unable to find much out about him was, frankly, infuriating, and made him rather less than likable. His privilege oozed from him at all times and the corrective to that came too late to change this reader's opinion of him. The narrative tension eased off towards the simple and perhaps too easily achieved end and a plot line or two just faded into the background. Despite these flaws, the novel had an intriguing concept that ultimately delivered a quick and pleasant read. Although not an in depth look at the economic, social, and political realities of living on an island year round, it does offer a glimpse at life and love when the sun and sand are replaced by snow and mud, when summer resident comes up against the working class year rounder, and what could happen to the magic of the place if there's too much change.

For more information about N.D. Galland and the book, check out her webpage, like her author page on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. I've visited beach towns in the middle of winter (definitely the off season!) and they aren't places I want to spend much time. I've often wondered how people live there all year round.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  2. Hi Kristen -
    Due to a communications glitch, I only just learned about this review. Thanks so much for it... the book is autobiographical enough that I found your assessment of the character fascinating, and it gave me an opportunity to assess my own relationship to my hometown. Keep up the good work! Nicki Galland


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