by Lara Tupper
Pub Date: 1/1/20
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-948338-82-0
“Beautifully understated, deft in its details, evocative of place and eras, Lara Tupper’s Off Island combines the painter’s perception of the visual world with the sensuality and coarseness of the physical world. Masterful and matter-of-fact, Tupper adeptly blends art, character study, and mystery in this compact, elliptical novel.”
-Peter Turchi, author of A Muse and A Maze
“Lara Tupper’s Off Island is a beautiful accomplishment, unlike any other work of fiction I can recall. The two narratives intertwine in such a way as to both demystify historical celebrity and elevate contemporary plainfolk. The prose is seductive and elegant, the story smart, enlightening, and oh so satisfying.”
– Antonya Nelson, author of Funny Once
“What if Gauguin went to the New World? That’s the launching point of Lara Tupper’s glistening new novel, Off Island, which reaches back into a vividly imagined history and traces it forward into the modern day lives of a tortured artist who may or may not be Gauguin’s descendant and the women he loves. In mesmeric prose, rich with sensual detail and a burning empathy for her characters, moving between Maine and New York and Copenhagen, Tupper blends what might have been with what is and in doing so throws a painter’s light on all our pasts and presents.” –
Jeremy Gavron, author of Felix Culpa and A Woman on the Edge of Time
“Pure color!” wrote Paul Gauguin to his wife, Mette, from the South Seas. “Everything must be sacrificed to it.” He told her about his paintings, his infidelities and his “bastard children.” Mette, stationed in Denmark to care for their own children, already knew what it meant to sacrifice. In Off Island, novelist Lara Tupper images that Gauguin—chasing new light, new color—ran away to a new island, a rugged outpost off the coast of Maine.
There, Gauguin—drunken, flirtatious, weary of his own compulsions—watches the light and his landlady. He sees the uneasy coexistence of the resident fishermen and the artists from “off island.” He leaves behind some paintings and letters—stolen by his lover—and maybe a child.
A hundred years later, another Maine painter, Pete, finds himself drawn to these familiar compulsions and torn between his muses—the sturdy, reliable Molly and the unhappy, peripatetic Karla, who promises to take him to other, newer islands.
As Gauguin considers his return, Pete yearns for escape. Mette and Molly, left behind, perceive what their husbands, still blinded by colors on canvas, are unable to see.
With wry humor and clear-eyed precision, Tupper captures the lure of the unknown, the pull of the familiar and the strangers our loved ones turn out to be. A novel of love and disappointment, duty and wanderlust, Off Island questions what it means to be loyal to one’s art, one’s family and one’s home.