When we first meet Pearl - young in years but advanced in her drinking - she’s sitting at a hotel bar in Florida, throwing back gin and tonics. Cradled in the crook of her arm is her infant son. But the relief she feels at having fled her abusive husband, and the Northeastern island his family calls home, doesn’t last for long. Soon she’s being shepherded back. The island, for Pearl, is a place of madness and pain, and her drinking might dull the latter but it spurs on the former.
Through the lens of Pearl’s fragile consciousness, readers encounter the horror and triumph of both childhood and motherhood. With language that flits between exuberance and elegy, the plainspoken and the poetic, Joy Williams has created a modern fairy-tale, entirely original and entirely consuming.