The Island Girls by Noelle Harrison
English | 2020 | Historical Fiction | ePUB | 2.8 MB
Vinalhaven Island. A disappearing place, in the wild Atlantic, of towering pines, lobster traps and two sisters torn apart by tragedy…
Harvard 1960. Nineteen-year-old Susannah says farewell to college life for the summer and returns to Vinalhaven Island, her remote rocky home off the coast of Maine. Her beloved sister Kate is marrying Matthew, a local fisherman, a man with a heart as cold as the Atlantic Ocean.
Years later, nurse Emer is sent to Vinalhaven to look after Susannah, who has lived in isolation since her sister’s tragic death. When Emer discovers a bundle of letters in a rainbow quilt in the bedroom, she and Susannah grow closer. Eventually, Susannah opens up enough to tell Emer the story of Kate’s brutal and secret past.
But when Emer starts asking locals about Kate, the island air sizzles with hostility. There are people who would rather that Susannah kept quiet, who have no qualms about threatening Emer. But despite the warnings to stay away, Emer is determined to find out what really happened the night Kate died – and the final secret that is keeping Susannah a prisoner to the past..
Emer found herself feeling strangely shy. She had no idea why she should be. She’d been employed to help Susannah Olsen.
‘I’m Emer Feeney, the nurse,’ she said. ‘Did your niece Lynsey not tell you I was coming?’
‘I know who you are all right, young lady, but I just wondered what you were doing snooping in my room?’
‘I thought you might be in bed,’ Emer explained. ‘I was looking for you.’
‘Well as you’ll see, I’m quite all right,’ Susannah said tartly. ‘Don’t know why those girls are fussing over me so.’
‘They want to make sure you’re cared for.’
‘Been managing just fine on my own for years,’ Susannah said.
They looked at each other. Emer smiled awkwardly, feeling fake, but Susannah didn’t return the smile.
‘Well, seeing as you’re here now you may as well make yourself useful,’ she said, passing Emer the basket of vegetables. ‘Come on downstairs and we’ll have some tea.’
Emer was taken aback by the older woman’s gruffness, but then what had she been expecting? Susannah was hardly going to be over the moon at the arrival of a nurse who by her very presence was going to remind her every day that she was dying. Lynsey had told Emer that Susannah had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which would be terminal regardless of whether Susannah chose to have chemotherapy. Emer had felt sorry for Susannah being so alone at the end of her life. No family nearby. Her closest living relatives were Lynsey, who lived a good five-hour trip away in Salem, and the other niece, Rebecca, who lived in England.
But clearly Susannah did not view herself as a victim. She turned around and walked out of her bedroom. Emer followed her down the stairs. Nothing about Susannah seemed to give the sense she was weak and frail. It was only when the older woman got to the bottom of the stairs and straightened up that Emer noticed her flinch in pain. Slightly. She was thin, too.
‘Don’t think you can stuff me with drugs now,’ Susannah snapped at her, as if she knew Emer was appraising her. ‘This is my home and I’m going to carry on exactly as I want. Got it?’
‘Well, my job is to make you comfortable,’ Emer said carefully.
‘I will tell you when I need help. Right? Don’t you be doping me up so I can’t think right. If I can’t read my books I may as well be gone anyway.’
It wasn’t too late. Emer could call up Lynsey. Tell her she’d changed her mind. Apologise. Explain she’d not been herself when she’d signed up as a private palliative care assistant. They always said you should never make big life changes when you’re grieving. How could she possible stay on this remote island in this woman’s dark, depressing house and witness her end? Watch her in pain? And know that was what it had been like for her own flesh and blood?