“Pure color!” wrote Paul Gauguin to his wife, Mette, from the South Seas. “Everything must be sacrificed to it.” He told her about his paintings, his infidelities and his “bastard children.” Mette, stationed in Denmark to care for their own children, already knew what it meant to sacrifice. In Off Island, novelist Lara Tupper images that Gauguin—chasing new light, new color—ran away to a new island, a rugged outpost off the coast of Maine. There, Gauguin—drunken, flirtatious, weary of his own compulsions—watches the light and his landlady. He sees the uneasy coexistence of the resident fishermen and the artists from “off island.” He leaves behind some paintings and letters—stolen by his lover—and maybe a child. A hundred years later, another Maine painter, Pete, finds himself drawn to these familiar compulsions and torn between his muses—the sturdy, reliable Molly and the unhappy, peripatetic Karla, who promises to take him to other, newer islands. As Gauguin considers his return, Pete yearns for escape. Mette and Molly, left behind, perceive what their husbands, still blinded by colors on canvas, are unable to see. With wry humor and clear-eyed precision, Tupper captures the lure of the unknown, the pull of the familiar and the strangers our loved ones turn out to be. A novel of love and disappointment, duty and wanderlust, Off Island questions what it means to be loyal to one’s art, one’s family and one’s home.
This book cannot be returned.