Grand Isle

A Novel

By Sarah Van Arsdale

Subjects: Fiction, New York/regional
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438442402, 302 pages, April 2012

Alternative formats available from:

A tragedy in early June sets off a cascade of deception for the summer people from Manhattan and the local teens on Grand Isle.


For the summer people from Manhattan, the small community of Grand Isle typifies the perfect lazy summertime mixture of sun-soaked beach days drifting into long barbecue parties that last late into the warm, firefly-lit nights. But this year, summer's idyll is shattered by a tragedy in early June, setting in motion upheaval, mistrust, and deception among the people of this small community off the North Fork of Long Island. The summer residents are forced to reexamine their friendships, their marriages, and their lives, and tensions between the summering teens and their year-round counterparts spike with the pressure of a terrible secret that could mean the ruin of one of them.

In this captivating novel, Sarah Van Arsdale brings a fiction writer's understanding of the human heart and a poet's sensitivity to language to the world she's created. In the end, this summer on Grand Isle will close with the human maps of the island redrawn, and the characters forever changed.

Sarah Van Arsdale is the author of Toward Amnesia and Blue: A Novel, which won the 2002 Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel. Her articles, fiction, and poetry have appeared in many publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Columbia Review, and Lilith magazine. She has taught at numerous colleges and universities, most recently at New York University and the City University of New York. She lives in New York City.


"Van Arsdale is a masterful writer. She created characters with wonderful depth. They will stay with the reader long after the final chapter is read. " — San Francisco Book Review

"…absorbing and suspenseful … [Van Arsdale's] depiction of place is often lyrical and dead-on. " — East Hampton Star

"With fine prose and keen attention to emotional detail, Sarah Van Arsdale gives us a real community of friends and neighbors in a summer colony on Long Island Sound. A brutal accident disrupts this Eden, revealing tangles of grief, guilt, and love in these deeply connected lives. Death here is as final and confusing as it is in reality. Van Arsdale makes us care about her large cast of island people: male and female; young and old; middle class and working class; good and half-good. This is a smart, rich, grown-up novel that can be compared to the best work of Richard Russo and Ann Beattie. " — Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters: A Novel

"This is not just a lyrical novel of loss and renewal, but a truly gripping read. The complicated characters of Grand Isle hurtle toward their fates in a way that is somehow both inevitable and completely unexpected. Van Arsdale brings a naturalist's trained eye to her vivid descriptions, and the line she draws between the human and natural worlds is as shifting and elusive as the line between water and land in the tidal marshes that surround this island community. " — Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic