Born in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1882 to immigrant parents, Frances Frankowski covets the life of her best friend, Rosalie Mendel, who has everything Fanny could wish for--money, parents who value education, and an effervescent and winning personality. When, at age fifteen, Rosalie decides they should run away to Chicago, Fanny jumps at the chance to escape her unexceptional life. But, within a year, Rosalie commits an unforgivable betrayal, inciting Frances to strike out on her own.
Decades later, the women reconnect in San Francisco and realize how widely their lives have diverged. While Rosalie is a housewife and mother, Frances works as a secretary for the Office of Naval Intelligence. There she is introduced to Ainslie Conway, an intelligence operator ten years her junior. When it's arranged for Frances and Ainslie to marry and carry out a mission on the Galapagos Islands, the couple's identities--already hidden from each other--are further buried under their new cover stories. No longer a lonely spinster, Frances is about to begin the most fascinating and intrigue-filled years of her life.
Amid active volcanoes, forbidding wildlife and flora, and unfriendly neighbors, Ainslie and Frances carve out a life for themselves. But the secrets they harbor from their enemies and from each other may be their undoing.
Drawing on the rich history of the early twentieth century and set against a large, colorful canvas, Enchanted Islands boldly examines the complexity of female friendship, the universal pursuit of a place to call home, and the reverberations of secrets we keep from others and from ourselves.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-03-28
- Reviewer: Staff
In Amend’s mesmerizing third novel, Frances Conway struggles through the lies of her life and marriage, where “the circles of deception were endless.” Frances’s childhood and adolescence are shaped by her friendship with Rosalie, but their close relationship is destroyed by a stunning betrayal. Years later in the 1930s, Frances is a 50-year-old secretary for the U.S. Navy in San Francisco. Bored and restless, Frances is persuaded to join in a marriage of convenience with a naval officer 11 years her junior, as a cover for an obscure intelligence operation on the Galapagos Islands just prior to World War II. Her new husband, Ainsley, is handsome and charming, but with disturbing secrets of his own. Their marriage is odd—they may be married, but they are not husband and wife. Their life on the Galapagos Islands is spartan, consisting of hard work in a harsh, beautiful environment, keeping an eye on the few Germans living there. Always watchful and wary, they make it through the war, but Ainsley’s secrets take a darker, more sinister turn. This is a taut, powerful tale of human relationships and the sacrifices people make to maintain their balance. (May)