Book Review: The Vines by Shelley Nolden

About the book:

Pub Date 23 Mar 2021

In the shadows of New York City lies forbidden North Brother Island, where the remains of a shuttered hospital hide the haunting memories of century-old quarantines and human experiments. The ruins conceal the scarred and beautiful Cora, imprisoned by contagions and the doctors who torment her. When Finn, a young urban explorer, arrives on the island and glimpses an enigmatic beauty through the foliage, intrigue turns to obsession as he seeks to uncover her past—and his own family’s dark secrets. By unraveling these mysteries, will he be able to save Cora? Will Cora meet the same tragic ending as the thousands who’ve already perished on the island?

The Vines intertwines North Brother Island’s horrific and elusive history with a captivating tale of love, betrayal, survival, and loss.

My thoughts:

If I remember correctly it was last year when I discovered North Brother Island. A documentary of the Island popped up on my YouTube feed. I watched it and learned a few details about its history and thought-at the time-I would love to read a fiction story that included the history elements. Low and behold, writer Shelley Nolden wrote a dual time-line story that takes place on the mysterious Island.

I must admit I was briefly hesitant at first to read the book based on the story’s topic of contagions. It’s not that I lacked interest in that subject but because of our current world-wide state of a pandemic. I thought it might be too sensitive of a story to read at the moment. However, my curiosity had gotten the better of me and I changed my mind.

When I opened to the first page on my Kindle, it wasn’t long before I became fully absorbed in the story. Finn Gettler arrives-more like sneaks-to North Brother Island and becomes immediately intrigued with the nature reclaiming the Island. He soon comes in contact with Cora. A woman who is not only trapped on the Island but, unknown to him , a prisoner of his family.

Cora is a fascinating woman and I enjoyed how the author developed her character as the story unfolded. Her experiences and circumstance had me connecting dots about real life, past and present, medical science I’ve often thought about.

When I discovered Finn’s last name is, “Gettler,” it struck a chord. I had heard of that name before but couldn’t remember where. I delved in little research and I was stunned at what I discovered to say the least! Nolden brilliantly balances real people and events into her story.

I experienced countless emotions reading this book. Many of them were sorrowful and feelings of anger on behalf of what was happening to Cora. The other emotions, I felt strongly, were for the absolute lack of humanity of a few of the characters. What makes this story good, yet all too disturbing, is the relevancy of the subject contagions and the evil that exists in this world.

There were moments I felt a few scenes were boggled down by just a little too much detail but overall, it was a worthwhile read. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series!

I’ve rated this story four stars and obtained a galley copy from the publishers through NetGalley.

Stephanie Hopkins

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