Island Girl

Island Girl

by Lynda Simmons

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There are people who try hard to forget their problems. All Ruby wants to do is remember...

Ruby Donaldson has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease, and she'll be damned if she won't straighten out her troubled family before she no longer knows how.

Ruby spent years fighting to hold on to the home her grandmother built on Ward's Island. The only way she can ensure that her younger, mentally scarred daughter Grace can live there for the rest of her life is to convince her older daughter, Liz, to sober up and come home.

Ruby always thought she'd have a lifetime to make things right, but suddenly time is running out. She has to put her broken family back together quickly while searching for a way to deal with the inevitable- and do it with all the grit, stubbornness, and unstoppable determination that makes Ruby who she is...until she's Ruby no longer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101445693
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/07/2010
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 1,099,631
File size: 417 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Lynda Simmons is the author of Getting Rid of Rosie. She lives in Canada.

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Island Girl 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Haven't we all walked into a room and wondered what in the heck we needed to find in there? Set car keys down and couldn't remember where on earth they might be? Spaced out about an appointment or meeting? Searched our minds for a common word that is just on the tip of our tongue and yet irretrievable in the moment? For most of us, busy as we are, these are isolated events and nothing to worry about. For some people though, these are the first manifestations of something so much worse.Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Ruby Donaldson knows she has a limited amount of time to organize and tie up the loose endings of her life before she is lost in the fog of the especially aggressive, early onset version of the disease. Ruby is a stubborn, fiesty, and independent woman who hates having to reach out for help but her new circumstances demand it. She has long had a combative relationship with her oldest daughter, Liz. But now she needs to make things right with Liz so that when the time comes (and Ruby has no intention of letting Alzheimer's, aka Big Al, steal her away, plotting to take herself out long before that time comes), her younger daughter, the beautiful but intellectually delayed Grace, will be able to hold onto the family's home on an island a short ferry ride from Toronto, the only place Grace feels safe.Ruby is prickly and cantankerous and she has spent a lifetime pushing people away. The Donaldson women have been famed for their strength and their eccentricities for as long as they've owned the island home and Ruby lives up to the reputation in spades. But after a year with insidious Alzheimer's and recognizing its more frequent incursions into her daily life, she reaches out to her old boyfriend, Mark, to ask for his help in finding her oldest daughter, from whom she is estranged. This first step towards connection and reconnection will change everything. Liz was once a brilliant lawyer but is now a wreck of an alcoholic, one who clings desperately to her anger and bitterness towards her mother refusing to let Ruby's diagnosis change her feelings in any way. She is consumed with rage and unhappiness but she still makes time to see her little sister every week behind their mother's back. Grace is lovely and childlike and there is a tragedy in her past that makes her unwilling to break out, even in small ways, from Ruby's stifling overprotectiveness. She is incapable of leaving the island, content to work in Ruby's beauty shop from the ground floor of the home that has been in their family for generations.Told in the alternating voices of the three Donaldson women, Ruby, Liz, and Grace, this is not just a sad story of a strong woman fighting with every ounce of her being against this terrible disease, it is also the story of healing a divided family and looking to the future. The characters are fully developed, flawed, and believable. The obstacles that they have to overcome are mostly those they have created themselves and so the reader can sympathize with the difficulty they each face in trying to change themselves and come together before it's too late. There are many different plot threads weaving through the book and while this can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, it is also the true and messy reality of life. Each of the plot lines is also important not only to fully flesh out the characters, but to help the reader understand all of the challenges they face and to show how this family came to the place they find themselves now. The main story, though, remains Ruby's. Simmons has done a lovely job capturing the small coping mechanisms that Ruby has developed and uses them well to illustrate Ruby's deterioration even as she puts up a valiant fight in her unwinnable war. Despite the obvious family dysfunction, Simmons has also managed to skillfully weave love and caring through the hurt and anger and secrets pulsing between her headstrong characters leaving room for hope. A lighter, more humorous novel than I would
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ruby Donaldson has just been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer¿s Disease and knows one thing: she must put her life in order before the disease robs her of her ability to do so. Living on a unique island close to Toronto, Ruby runs her own hair styling salon while keeping an eye on her adult daughter, Grace, who is developmentally delayed. Ruby¿s life hasn¿t been all smooth sailing ¿ she¿s gone through her fair share of men and is estranged from her eldest daughter, Liz, who has dumped her career as an attorney and turned to alcohol to pass the time. Ruby deals with Alzheimer¿s Disease (which she nicknames ¿Big Al¿) the way she has dealt with everything in her life ¿ head on, with no holds barred, and a fierce determination to take control.Narrated in alternating points of view between Ruby, Grace and Liz, Island Girl reveals a family in crisis with its fair share of heartache and dysfunction. Liz is the most unlikable of the characters ¿ a woman who hides inside a bottle and strikes out with anger at anyone trying to reach her. It is not until late in the novel that the reader begins to gain some understanding of Liz¿s rage toward her mother and herself. Grace is vulnerable and innocent, a child in a woman¿s body who loves birds and wishes her mother would see her abilities more than her disabilities. Ruby is the character that unites all the other characters in the book with her fiery personality and can-do attitude. But she is not without her faults. The very thing that gives her strength also drives away the people who love her the most.Island Girl examines how a devastating diagnosis impacts a family. It also looks at how the medical field responds to patients as Ruby begins to decline and lose her autonomy. Perhaps the strongest theme of the novel is about the loss of autonomy once a person enters the medical system. At what point do we allow a person to determine their own path? When do outsiders need to step in to safeguard a person once their ability to care for themselves begins to slip? Should a person¿s need for self-determination outstrip the need to keep them safe? These questions are at the core of Lynda Simmon¿s book.Although I appreciated the insight into the characters which is gained through alternating viewpoints, there were moments when I would have preferred to stay firmly entrenched in Ruby¿s mind and voice. This novel is, in every sense, Ruby¿s story ¿ and it was her voice I longed to listen to. Simmons introduces parallel stories of the other characters in her novel which slowed the pace and did not engage me nearly as much as Ruby¿s steady descent into her disease.The ending to this novel will be a conversation generator in book clubs. Simmons resolves the story in a way that will stir up a little controversy, I think. And that is all I will say about it¿if you want to know more, you have to read the book!Island Girl will appeal to readers who like books about family relationships and who want to gain insight into the perspective of an individual dealing with Alzheimer¿s Disease.
ReviewsbyMolly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was offered the chance to review this book for a blog tour, and, at first, was going to say no to it. But, after reading more about it, decided to give it a chance. I am quite pleased with the work of this author and the book itself. It really is a gripping book, both emotionally and physically. Especially with the subject line and just having recently lost my grandfather to the same disease that Ruby has. It was a novel that truly and emotionally hit home with me. Ruby, bless her heart, she was my favorite character. A character who is both complex and intriguing, and suffering from early onset Alzheimer's Disease. There are some parts of the story that I honestly didn't quite feel, but the way she just wanted what was best for her family, and to right the wrongs, was amazing. Her early onset of Alzheimer's truly helped her in a way. She wanted the best for everyone, while, in the process loosing herself to a horrible disease. Having sat by and watched my grandfather with this same disease, it breaks my heart, in away, to sit here and read a novel about the sufferings and the race against time to try and remember things. But, I also remember the things that he did, and he, like Ruby, wanted the best for everyone. The other characters in this story, Grace, Liz and Mark, were phenomenal. They lent a depth to the story, as they too, had to come to grips with this evil disease taking over Ruby. It truly was like watching the book come to life, and making me a part of it; like it was me with my grandfather all over again. I will warn you and say that this is HIGHLY emotional. It is not a "light" read, by any means. It will grip you, it will take you on an emotional roller coaster at times, and it will become you. Five star work, an incredibly moving plot line, and characters that become the reader, this is a book that I would recommend to EVERYONE. This author is fantastic and I am looking forward to more emotionally moving work by her.
stephanas More than 1 year ago
A poignant and gripping novel about the power of family, relationships, and mental illness. I first found this book in the library and then had to add it to my collection at home. The dynamics between the mother affected with Alzheimer's and her daughters, one of which is an alcoholic, were honest and moving. She reunites with someone very important in their lives and continues to pursue suicide as an option and a way out before she loses herself completely to Alzheimer's. A must-read for anyone touched by these issues, as well as watching your parent struggle with aging or children becoming independent and finding their way in the world. The dynamics of all involved are well plotted and descriptive, often told from a different member of the family each chapter. A true bird's eye view and a page turner to the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
Ruby Donaldson, a 55-year old woman, is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. She decides to put her life and death in order. She has to two daughters Grace (who is about to get married) and Liz (once a promising lawyer, now an alcoholic). This novel is written from the point of view of each of these three women with alternating chapters. This novel is not only about a dysfunctional family having to deal with such a devastating disease, but also about the relationships within that family. This is a highly emotional story with strong characters. Although, a little slow at first, once we begin to know the characters, they story picks up and the reader becomes intertwined in the various lives and subplots. Even the ending was a bit troublesome. Bring your tissues and be ready for an emotional rollercoaster.
CelticLadyWI More than 1 year ago
"Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, and at present irreversible, brain disorder that is characterized by a steady decline in cognitive, behavioral and physical abilities severe enough to interfere with everyday life and necessitate full time care. Symptoms vary from person to person, but all people with Alzheimer's disease have problems with memory loss, disorientation and thinking ability. Individuals with Alzheimer's disease may have trouble finding the right words to use, recognizing objects (such as a pencil), recognizing family and friends, and may become frustrated, irritable, and agitated. As the disease progresses, physical problems may include loss of strength and balance, and diminishing bladder and bowel control. As more and more of the brain is affected, areas that control basic life functions, like swallowing and breathing, become irreversibly damaged, resulting eventually in death" With that said, as I am sure this is true in most families, Alzheimer's has affected our family first hand. I worked in a nursing home for 24+ years, so I knew how it affected families and caregivers. My husband's aunt suffered from this debilitating illness, thankfully for her she was in her late 80's and lived to be 94 when she died. We had to make the decision to put her in the nursing home that I worked at so she would be close to us and I knew she would get good care. Watching this former teacher, very intelligent and 'proper lady' decline to the point of being in a fetal position and refusing food was so very hard on all of us, to the point that our four children would not want to see her and just remember the aunt that they at times feared and always loved as the time went by. Island Girl by Lynda Simmons is a story of a woman Ruby Donaldson ,aged 55, who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. At first, because of pride, she does not let anyone in her life know that she has the disease and she tries to continue her life as a hairdresser as if nothing was wrong. She had to write in a journal and use notes to get through her days. As time goes on she finds herself covering up and using excuses so no one knows what is going on with her. She wants to get all her affairs taken care of and she also starts doing research on ways to end her life when she determines that she does not want to end up not knowing who or where she is or forgetting her family. This novel is also about Ruby's daughters Liz, who she is estranged from and Grace, the daughter Ruby is trying to protect. As in any family Ruby and her daughters have issues with each other and the more Ruby tries to protect them from the truth, the more the issues escalate. Ruby also starts having a relationship with an old flame who has a rebellious 12 year old girl who helps escalate the problems with the Donaldson women. Each person tells their story and the reader gets pulled right in and carried along to the surprising end. There are other characters that add to the richness of this story. I think that Lynda Simmons either did a lot of research with Alzheimer's or has first hand knowledge of this debilitating disease as she tells this story with no holds barred and also with compassion not only for Ruby but all the characters in the story. I found myself laughing and crying through the book. I loved it and give it 5 stars. A must for the lover of women's fiction.
SarahM26 More than 1 year ago
This book is absolutely incredible. Bust out the kleenex though, I haven't cried while reading a book in a while. Thanks for the great read!! Highly highly recommend.