Liza Nelson

Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D

5 of 17
San Miguel
384 pages; Viking
In T.C. Boyle's San Miguel, two strong women generations apart are seduced and mistreated by the same powerful entity—not a man but a starkly beautiful, barely inhabited island off the California coast. Marantha Waters, a 38-year-old New Englander, arrives on San Miguel in 1888 with her second husband, Will, a Civil War vet who hopes to make his fortune tending sheep. Will promises Marantha that San Miguel will cure her consumption, and she desperately tries to believe him, even as her symptoms worsen. Cut to 1930. Elise Lester, another 38-year-old woman from back East, lands on the island with her new husband, Herbie, a WWI vet. The two are rapturously in love. But as WWII draws near, the U.S. military intrudes on their haven. Boyle portrays the heartbreaking toll San Miguel takes on these couples in a novel as beguiling as the island itself.
— Liza Nelson