T C Boyle’s writing is utterly engaging. He draws his characters deeply, vividly, and empathetically. You get to know them. Their very personal life stories are set in the context of major cosmic issues – the hostility of nature intertwined with the hurt, brutality and warfare of humanity. And yet there is redemptive grace too, irrepressible joys, hospitality. Will Waters is totally in the grasp of the relentless familiar cycle of brutality. The war and the island’s tough nature have brutalised him, and he cruelly brutalises Maranatha and Edith. His successor generation, Herbie Lester is war wounded rather than brutalised, and internalises this wound, though this still hurts the wife and daughters he loves. I wanted the book to finish because of the urge to know how the story ended, but I wanted it not to end since I’d so enjoyed feeling part of the event each day I read.