From the blurb alone, The Island Dwellers promises exploration, identity questions, and imaginative stories. Framed around this concept of islands, loneliness, and our relationships to others, The Island Dwellers ties eleven stories together to grapple with these existential crises.
In this razor-sharp debut collection, Jen Silverman delivers eleven interconnected stories that take place in expat bars, artist colonies, train platforms, and matchbox apartments in the United States and Japan. Unforgettable characters crisscross through these transient spaces, loving, hurting, and leaving each other as they experience the loneliness and dangerous freedom that comes with being an outsider.
I think that The Island Dwellers makes some pretty broad claims about the questions and themes Silverman will explore – and I think it largely succeeds. Just in the first two stories alone – which kind of set the tone for the entire collection – these issues are grappled with. We are asked about how we make sense of home and our relationships to others around us. There’s something, a theme in each story, that kind of pulls you along. Each story leads us somewhere and while they tackle similar issues, the characters are all different. The characters firmly, but gently, take your hand and move you forwards.
Each story has a distinct sense of beginning and resolution. What I found most surprising were the subtle ways that each character, each world connects in this imaginative way. While they all have different lives and stories – it speaks to this idea of a person and islands. They have all moved so far from home, so seemingly different, but they all lie awake at night dueling these same thoughts, and connected in this thread of human experiences. If this idea resonates with you at all, I’d recommend The Island Dwellers. You can find the book on Goodreads for more info.