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April 12, 2021

The Vines by Shelley Nolden ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

In the shadows of New York City lies forbidden North Brother Island, where the remains of a shuttered hospital hide the haunting memories of century-old quarantines and human experiments.

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The Vines
March 2021; Freiling Publishing; 978-1950948406
audio, ebook, print (412 pages); historical mystery
I hardly know how to classify this novel -- it was told in two timelines so part of it is historical fiction but overall I think it can best describe it as a suspense novel -- a novel full of twists and turns and surprises that you don't see coming.  My only disappointment with this novel was that it didn't wrap up totally at the end but ended with "Don't forget the unforgettable sequel to THE VINES coming soon."  

North Brother Island in New York has a long and strange history.  In 1885, a hospital opened there to treat and isolate smallpox victims and other communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and typhoid.  The island was abandoned in the late 40s and then opened in the 50s to treat drug-addicted young people.  It was closed again in the mid-60s and is now serving as a sanctuary for herons and other wading shorebirds

When Finn finds information about experiments his great-grandfather, grandfather, father, and brother have carried out on the island, he gets curious and kayaks to the island to try to find out what secrets his family has been keeping from him.  When he arrives, he finds a beautiful young woman living by herself on the island.  Cora is a victim of his family who have done experiments on her since 1902 trying to find out why she has an immunity to disease so that they can replicate it and save other people.  Finn is intrigued by her and the connection with his family.  

Throughout The Vines, we get Finn's story as well as Cora's history of her life. I found Cora's story to be unimaginable, the pain and the horror that she had been put through by the doctors who wanted to find a way to save people was horrific   A major ethical dilemma comes to mind on how much someone should be made to suffer to save other people.  The juxtaposition of Cora's history and her current life really gives the reader something to think about.

This is a well-written novel.  There is a lot of medical information but not enough (or boring enough) to bog down the story.  There are many opposites in the story - Cora's past and the beauty of the island that she inhabits, Finn's sense of adventure, and his family's treachery, inflicting harm on one person in the hope to save many.  I found this novel very intriguing and thought-provoking and can't wait to read the sequel.

Note:  Take the time to Google North Brother Island to find out more about its history and see current pictures.  It makes the novel even more intriguing.

This is Shelley Nolden's debut novel, and I am looking forward to her future books especially the follow-up book to The Vines when we'll go back to North Brother Island.  She has a lot of talent writing a suspense story that keeps you turning the pages and I'm sure that she will continue to write fantastic books.

Buy The Vines at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. Since her travel plans had to be canceled for this year, she is starting to make plans for travel in 2021. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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