In July I began reading Michael O’Brien’s Island of the World. Thirty pages in I knew this book was extraordinary. At one point in the middle of the night I got up and Googled Josip Lasta, the protagonist’s name, convinced he was a real person.
When I finished reading it, I couldn’t stop discussing it. I gave copies to friends. But I shrank from writing about Island. It is a big book in every sense of the word. How can I express its power in a short review? A friend read it and said, “It changed my life.” Island of the World has 18 reviews on Amazon; all are 5 stars. Laura, whose review began with these words “Best book ever.”, bought every book written by O’Brien after reading this.
So what is it about? Light and darkness, loss and blessing, deep interior wounds, survival, sanity after trauma, crucifixion, resurrection. Grief mingled with inexplicable joy. All condensed in the life of a single Croatian man named Josip Lasta.
about culture and the actual creation of culture.
I am intrigued by the cultures portrayed in O’Brien’s book: the rustic mountain village northwest of Sarajevo with an interdependent community and a faithful priest; the heady high culture of academia discussing philosophy and experiencing art; the tight grip on the edge of sanity, clinging to a vestige of humanity in a labor camp; the incremental rebuilding of a life in an Italian hospital; the life of a solitary janitor in New York City.
It was given. It is gift and cost–and in time the cost may
become entirely gift. It is hard to know if that will be the
end of all this striving, impossible to guess when the next
blessing or blow will fall.
I can’t be sure, but I suspect that Michael O’Brien is my new Wendell Berry. That is the highest compliment I can offer.
Get this book. Burrow into it. It will change you.
Enter a comment and I will have a drawing. Let’s say December 4th.
Post a link, tweet about it, email a friend (and let me know you did)
and I’ll enter your name twice!
You can have choose between paperback or Kindle version.
International entries are welcome.