CGG Book Club: Marrow Island
Another week, another look at a few books I’ve been reading as of late – one of which you can win! Read on to learn more.
I think everyone’s got a cause or a political issue that’s particularly near and dear to their hearts. For the longest time, mine has been food production – a close study of it over the last decade (!) led me to make the decision to eat a primarily vegan diet, although I still have the odd bit of cheese or fish. The idea in our household is moderation – choosing to eat mostly vegan food means we’re not overexposing ourselves to some of the decidedly questionable practices of the industrial food complex. As noted chef (and non-vegetarian) Dan Barber points out – you are what you eat, but you’re also what you eat eats. All of this to say, I usually read a couple of food-related books per year, and the catchy title of this one caught my eye.
In summary, it takes a close look at a previously unexplored aspect of nutrition – flavour – and its inextricable link to mass food production and obesity. While you may anticipate that only truly processed foods like Doritos are related to the flavouring surge in our society, the reality is flavour companies are actually being sought to enhance all kinds of food, including seemingly whole foods like chicken. The reason? When we breed vegetables and meat for quantity, we’re often sacrificing flavour, leaving artificial and yes, natural flavouring (which is a bit of a crazy marketing misnomer I’ve learned) to fill in the gaps. Author Mark Schatzker explores how these flavours are created, why they’re created, the impact they’re having on how we consume food (including how our brain processes these intense flavours), and what we can do to try and…course correct the role flavour plays in our cooking and food production today. It’s a fascinating read – while it overlapped a bit with some other books I’ve read, it definitely brought to light a whole bunch of other insights and science I had no awareness of.
This week’s featured title is Alexis M. Smith’s Marrow Island – read on to check out my review!
What’s the Buzz?: Truth be told, I can’t actually remember what first caught my eye about this book – usually it’s tied to some wave of buzz, but in this case, I think it was just the premise and the comparison to Station 11 that made me intrigued. For the record though, the author also published a relatively popular novel called Glaciers that you may have read / heard about 🙂
What’s The Plot?: Journalist Lucie is back on the island she fled from so many years earlier to settle a few things. After leaving as a child in the wake of a devastating earthquake that took her father’s life on adjacent Marrow Island, decades later, Lucie’s mother has left her the family cabin. An interesting letter from a former classmate named Katie inspires her to seek her friend out. As it turns out, Katie is living on the titular Marrow Island, as part of a colony of…radicalists? environmentalists? something else altogether?…that is attempting to remediate the soil and make it habitable again. Lucie’s reporter instincts flare up and she takes a closer look at the colony and their rather extreme practices – which as alluded to in the chilling, chaotic opening chapter, has a rather traumatic outcome. The story hops around between Lucie arriving on the island for the first time as an adult, with memories of her childhood on the island strewn in, as well as a more ‘present day’ Lucie dealing with a final request from another major player in the story.
What Should I Know?: If you like a slow-burning book with a truly eerie setting (seriously, her visiting her neighbour’s manor gave me goosebumps) and a mysterious premise, Marrow Island‘s for you. I particularly liked how the ‘present day’ chapters actually tease at what happens in the ‘past’ chapters (i.e. Lucie first arriving on the island as an adult) – it’s a fun game of cat and mouse with a single character that will keep you going. It’s also got some interesting things to say about the environment and the way we interact with the earth – if you’re buying for an eco-warrior type, they may relate (or be repelled!) by the story that much more.
How Summery Is It?: /4 suns seems like an apt score. The eerie Pacific Northwest remote island setting felt a little more fall-like (similar to how I felt about The 100-Year Miracle), but at the same time, the mystery element of the story and the cabin country setting felt rustically summer-esque. Fair warning, Marrow Island isn’t exactly a page turner in the way a dishy summer read might be, but the author does a great job at organizing the hopscotch timeline so you never feel lost, and the relatively short chapters mean you can read this in short chunks between naps in the sun or flights to destinations abroad.
Who Should Read This Book?: Anyone who enjoys a good ethical debate alongside their reading – the mission of the colonists is more or less noble, but their methods of achieving it are where the sparks begin to fly. Given Marrow Island is a CGG Book Club pick, it actually wouldn’t be a bad book club read as there’s a fair bit to debate – just as Lucie debates throughout the story herself, weighing what’s right and wrong, and how to support something that seems good even if it’s tied to something more sinister?
Interested in reading a copy of Marrow Island? I’ve got one to give away! Here’s how to enter:
1) First & foremost: you must be a subscriber to the Canadian Gift Guide to enter this giveaway. It’s as simple as finding ‘The Gift of Gab’ box in the righthand column and dropping in your email or clicking follow. Then, tell me in the comments below by September 3, 2016 – why are you interested in reading Marrow Island?
2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around August 23, 2016 to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.
3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible for this promotion.
4) Bonus Entry: Follow Raincoast Books on Instagram, tag them and me (@cdngiftguide) in a post featuring the cover of this book, telling us why you want to read this book! Post a link to your Instagram post below in a separate comment to earn yourself an extra entry into the draw.
5) Bonus Entry #2: Add this book to your to-read list on GoodReads, and leave a link back to the page it’s on below in a separate comment to earn yourself another bonus entry.