Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Meet, Mingle, and Read -- Island Apart

Meet, Mingle, and Read (June 26, 2012)

“We’re all wounded in some way,” he said.  “It’s not what you have that makes you beautiful.  It’s what you’ve lost and still managed to go on living without.”

Steven Raichlen, Island Apart

Steven Raichlen has been many things in his career:  a food critique, a wine and spirits editor, a grill master, and a cookbook author.  His childhood dream, though, was realized when he published his first novel Island Apart, an unlikely love story set on the Martha’s Vineyard offshoot Chappaquiddick.  Originally titled The Hermit of Chappaquiddick, the story revolves around two central characters – The Hermit, a man who lives up to the definition of his nickname, and Claire, a woman surviving both breast cancer and divorce.  The two meet by chance when The Hermit discovers Claire in the aftermath of a minor biking accident and continue to escalate their friendship through the exchange of gifts of food.  “Food is essential and primal,” Raichlen explained.  And it’s expressive and important to both The Hermit and Claire, master chefs in their own rights, so this simple form of communication draws them closer without spending actual time together.  Eventually, they do break that barrier and discover kindred spirits in each other.  Even when faced with a dark past and an uncertain future, The Hermit and Claire fight for their desired happy ending.
            Raichlen spent some time reading from the novel as well as explaining his writing process.  He had a clear vision of The Hermit shortly after he and his wife began building their home on Chappaquiddick and that vision spiraled into including Claire and the other cast of characters – who they were, how they lived, what they did.  “I learned to write with an eraser,” Raichlen said as he took some time to discuss his editorial process with his editors and his agent.  Near the end of his presentation, he asked for questions from the audience, which prompted one woman to tell the story of a hermit she knew, thus sealing the universality of this sort of story.  We all have a “hermit” in our lives – someone who may have a rough or quiet exterior that shields a genuine and kind individual who may need to be coaxed out of his shell.  Island Apart is a reminder that the journey to discovering someone’s innate humanity is more than worth it.

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