When I read that Cynthia Ruchti's newest book was set on Madeline Island, the largest of Wisconsin's Apostle Islands, I was immediately interested. Lake Superior is one of my favorite places on earth. When our family used to camp on the shores of Lake Superior at a special, almost unknown campground, I could feel myself being revitalized. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands are where my husband and I spent our honeymoon forty-four years ago. Somehow I knew that Ruchti's book would be one of renewal and love. I just didn't know what a tender, fragile story it would be. It almost reminds one of a wounded bird being found, nursed back to health, and then that baby bird begins to soar.
Emmalyn Ross has come to Madeline Island alone to a ramshackle hunting cabin owned by her husband and herself. Because the tiny place is basically uninhabitable until repairs can be made to it, Emmalyn has made reservations at the tiny Wild Iris Inn. As she catches the last ferry of the day to the island from Bayfield, we begin to learn a bit of her story -- separated from her husband who appears to be incarcerated, home sold, job resigned. Clearly Emmalyn is a bundle of worry, anxiety, and hurt. From her first step into the Wild Iris Inn, it appears that finally someone(s) will be caring for M, as the eccentric inn owner Bougie names her.
Readers will get Emmalyn's story in tiny bits and pieces. There is a suspense there, but for me, sometimes it was too dragged out. I don't think the story would have been harmed if the readers had learned more about Emmalyn, her husband and their past earlier in the book. I liked the cast of island characters, all extreme individualists who each had their own scarred pasts. This added to the overall feeling that a rugged, but beautiful place such as Madeline Island can be part of one's healing. These secondary characters also add to the readers need to consider our own blessings and needs. For example, Bougie hosts a Thanksgiving meal at the inn that is unlike any Thanksgiving feast you've ever known, but it will have all of us with full pantries thinking about our abundance. A few details of the story are a little too convenient or well-plotted to be realistic, but in all I was not disappointed in Ruchti's work. Only in the last pages do you learn the meaning behind the title AS WATERS GONE BY. If you do not know this verse from Job (I did not recognize it), I will leave you to discover it on your own. Suffice to say it is an apt name for this little cabin turned refuge and for Emmalyn's rescued life. I appreciate contemporary fiction that can be read by a wide age range, that goes beyond simple romance to explore the complexities of our lives. I look forward to reading more by Ruchti.
I received a copy of AS WATERS GONE BY for review purposes from LitFuse. All opinions are mine.