“San Miguel,” T.C. Boyle’s latest novel, tells the tales of three women who, along with their families, find themselves living on a Pacific island with no trees, a plethora of sheep and only a shack or two.
The reader gains insight into the minds, loves and grievances of three women: Marantha Waters, her adopted daughter, Edith, and Elise Lester. After leaving behind all they have previously known, they battle the wind, the rain and the isolation that comes from living on San Miguel Island.
All three women expect a fresh start — a paradise on earth unlike the populated regions from which they emigrated. But in the end they only want to escape from their houses and their lives forever. Unfortunately, this is also how the reader feels about the book — desirous to escape.
Since the story tackles loneliness and isolation a great deal, human interaction in the story is limited, and the little there is revolves around the same poorly developed characters. The theme of the book is more central to people finding themselves in unfortunate situations than it is a gripping and intriguing story. Each character relentlessly bemoans her ceaseless toil, but not one possesses the means or the imagination to do anything about it, save a few moments here and there.
Like the characters, the story as a whole never really gets going, it never gathers enough momentum to break free of its drudgery. Boyle sprinkles in a number of plot twists, but they tend to seem contrived because of the poorly developed characters with whom we are more annoyed than enthralled.
Each character must deal with various important and trying issues which, sadly, are not fully developed. And with access to the three women’s minds and emotions, the reader expects to be able to think things out alongside them, but some of the most promising subjects are glossed over.
In the end, this book’s main problem is that it is rather boring. Simply making it to the next turn of the page requires immense patience. The characters, plot, theme and language all leave much to be desired and result in a book that does not properly address the issues it sets out to tackle. Given Boyle’s successful career, the failure of the novel is particularly unfortunate. Perhaps with his next novel he will bring his top game, but for now he leaves readers waiting for a ship to rescue them from this island of tedium.
“San Miguel” by T.C. Boyle will be released today.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 18 print edition. Kyle Mancuso is a contributing writer. Email him at email@example.com.
- Weekend Roam: Little Germany
- WSN Editorial Board reflects on spring semester events
- Strawberry Festival promises delicious, intergalactic fun
- Clive Davis Institute collaborates with DJ Swivel
- Best places to dine on dumplings
- 'Heroes' is not super enough for Xbox Live film program launch
- NYU SLAM sees victory through 'badidas' campaign
- Victoria Ettore elected student council president
- Hester Street Fair hosts diverse vendors, delicious food