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Publisher's Summary

From National Book Award-nominated writer Andrea Lee comes Red Island House, a travel epic that opens a window on the mysterious African island of Madagascar, and on the dangers of life and love in paradise, as seen through the eyes of a Black American heroine.

“People do mysterious things when they think they have found paradise,” reflects Shay, the heroine of Red Island House. When Shay, an intrepid Black American professor, marries Senna, a brash Italian businessman, she doesn’t imagine that her life’s greatest adventure will carry her far beyond their home in Milan: to an idyllic stretch of beach in Madagascar where Senna builds a flamboyant vacation villa. Before she knows it, she becomes the reluctant mistress of a sprawling household, caught between her privileged American upbringing and her connection to the continent of her ancestors. So begins Shay’s journey into the heart of a remote African country. Can she keep her identity and her marriage intact amid the wild beauty and the lingering colonial sins of this mysterious world that both captivates and destroys foreigners? 

A mesmerizing, powerful tale of travel and self-discovery that evokes Isabella Allende’s House of the Spirits and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s Americanah, Red Island House showcases an extraordinary literary voice and gorgeously depicts a lush and unknown world.

©2021 Andrea N. Lee. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

"Turpin gives a lively, arch performance, capturing the history and magic of Madagascar as well as Shay's personality. Listeners who are searching for a unique novel that intertwines plot with setting will soak in this experience. Turpin jumps back and forth between details of the island's vivid past and Shay's urgent present, filled with the demands of work, parenting, and marriage. This entertaining title will engage listeners until the very end." (AudioFile Magazine)

What listeners say about Red Island House

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  • Overall
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Good

It was good. It lacked a bit of depth story wise but deep in the way of meaning. It jumped around alot and never came full circle until the end, a bit like life. Great narrating and a bit heart breaking.

27 people found this helpful

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Triumphant

An important work, weaving in... origin story experiences in global cultures. I feel Neritrani has its roots in my own Bay Area soil.

20 people found this helpful

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MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING!

Enough already. I’ve listened to five hours of beautiful prose & lavish descriptions but where is the story? I just couldn’t waste anymore time on this. So incredibly drawn out. To what end I’ll never know.

2 people found this helpful

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Too repetitive

I wanted to like it more than I did. The first section was quite enjoyable, and I wish it had stayed in that timeline. I did not like the repetition of information or understand the purpose of revisiting and restating.

1 person found this helpful

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Good book, great narration

I was excited to listen to this book even though some of the reviews were pretty bad. I don't read a lot of reviews, but I figure the star rating when I'm going to listen to something. One of my main issues with the book is that it didn't seem to know whether to be a series of stories or one main story. It has the feeling of some novels that were published in serial form. At times it seems like the author wanted to write an epic novel, but was afraid to tackle such a task. Instead it has redundancies which is weird in a book of this modest length.

The main character is Shay, a Black American living in Italy who married Senna, an Italian man quite a bit older than her. He decides to build a vacation house in Madagascar - that is the Red Island House. Much of the book takes place there and we are introduced to a variety of local, European, and American characters. They have 2 children, but I feel as if they are a writing afterthought. I want to know them better as children. I won't say more about the plot because I hate spoilers.

The actual writing of the book is better than the story. Some of it is absolutely beautiful. At times I feel transported to the island. It does feel like it is aimed at women. I'm trying to avoid the term "chick-lit" but has anyone come up with a less condescending term? That does describe this, although it has an exotic setting.

The brightest aspect for me is the narration by Bahni Turpin: she is one of my favorite narrators! All in all I'm happy to have listened to this book. I might consider other works by this author in the future, but right now I need something different!



1 person found this helpful

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Interesting story from an unusual voice

I have never been to Madagascar, but I have, in decades past, visited various Caribbean islands. I would often wonder about the lives of the people who lived there, how different they were from us privileged travelers who stayed in luxurious resorts. It’s interesting to hear this unique voice, of a woman with feet in different cultures, continents and histories. It made me think about the lives of these others, and of the place that outsiders occupy in their lives. A very interesting, complex, and graceful telling of lives that straddle cultures and continents. And the ending was especially graceful and poignant. I would highly recommend this book, and the telling was done very well by the narrator.

1 person found this helpful

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a different view

what a wonderful poignant perspective on international as well as cultural and ethnic practices. these do have an effect on individuals.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliant, unique and fascinating book!

Great story, interesting characters, beautifully written and really captivating. I just loved this book and recommend for anyone who likes quality in their fiction.


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interesting vs engaging

The texture and feel of this book is different from most listens - it's like listening from the outside rather than the inside. It's like being told a story from far away. It is interesting, but didn't keep my attention enough to listen all the way through. I listened to it a little each day and then on to other books that made me feel more inside the story. I assume it's the way the book was written because I've loved this narrator in other books. And the accents sound great to me, not that I'm very discerning. The story is told through the eyes of Shey, the matriarch, but I never felt like I knew her. The language is beautiful and its a saga that unfolds over the life of a marriage, centered around their vacation home on the Island in Madagascar. The story is really about the island and how it affects people; the people who come to visit (including outsiders who live there) and the natives who where born there. It's an interesting portrait of a time and place and how it evolves during the formative years of their marriage. The island is magical and mystical, but again this is all experienced from a distance, like someone is telling a story at a campfire. It's a good story, told largely as a series of anecdotes, just not one that pulls you inside the story so that you experience it too.

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Boring

it was just pretty boring. Too long on endless detail, lacked dialogue and storylines seemed disjointed.