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An Island

An Island

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Karen Jennings
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LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE • “A ferocious, swift chess game of a novel” (Paul Yoon, author of Run Me to Earth) about a lighthouse keeper with a mysterious past, and the stranger who washes up on his shores—the American debut of a major voice in world literature.

“[A] heartrending psychological portrait of trauma and xenophobia, and the scars left by successive corrupt governments on the people forced to endure them.”—Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, The Guardian

Samuel has lived alone on a small island off the coast of an unnamed African country for more than two decades. He tends to his garden, his lighthouse, and his chickens, content with a solitary life. Routinely, the nameless bodies of refugees wash ashore, but Samuel—who understands that the government only values certain lives, certain deaths—always buries them himself.

One day, though, he finds that one of these bodies is still breathing. As he nurses the stranger back to life, Samuel—feeling strangely threatened—is soon swept up in memories of his former life as a political prisoner on the mainland. This was a life that saw his country exploited under colonial rule, followed by a period of revolution and a brief, hard-won independence—only for the cycle of suffering to continue under a cruel dictator. And he can’t help but recall his own shameful role in that history. In this stranger’s presence, he begins to consider, as he did in his youth: What does it mean to own land, or to belong to it? And what does it cost to have, and lose, a home?

A timeless and gripping portrait of regret, terror, and the extraordinary stakes of companionship, An Island is a story as page-turning as it is profound.