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Extended Audio Sample San Miguel Audiobook, by T. C. Boyle Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,031 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: T. C. Boyle Narrator: Barbara Caruso Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2012 ISBN: 9781101579664
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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Women comes a historical novel about three women’s lives on a California island.

On a tiny, desolate, windswept island off the coast of Southern California, two families, one in the 1880s and one in the 1930s, come to start new lives and pursue dreams of self-reliance and freedom. Their extraordinary stories, full of struggle and hope, are the subject of T. C. Boyle’s haunting novel.

Thirty-eight-year-old Marantha Waters arrives on San Miguel on New Year’s Day 1888 to restore her failing health. Joined by her husband, a stubborn, driven Civil War veteran who will take over the operation of the sheep ranch on the island, Marantha strives to persevere in the face of the hardships, some anticipated and some not, of living in such brutal isolation. Two years later their adopted teenage daughter, Edith, an aspiring actress, will exploit every opportunity to escape the captivity her father has imposed on her. Time closes in on them all and as the new century approaches, the ranch stands untenanted. And then in March 1930, Elise Lester, a librarian from New York City, settles on San Miguel with her husband, Herbie, a World War I veteran full of manic energy. As the years go on they find a measure of fulfillment and serenity; Elise gives birth to two daughters, and the family even achieves a celebrity of sorts. But will the peace and beauty of the island see them through the impending war as it had seen them through the Depression?

Rendered in Boyle’s accomplished, assured voice, with great period detail and utterly memorable characters, this is a moving and dramatic work from one of America’s most talented and inventive storytellers.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Mesmerizing and elegiac.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “An absorbing work of historical fiction based on the lives of two real families who resided on San Miguel Island in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries…The intensity of Boyle’s narrative never lets it flag.”

    Washington Post

  • “As always, [Boyle] fills his pages with wonderfully precise character studies and lush descriptions of the physical landscape.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Boyle’s spirited novels are a reckoning with consequence laced with humor, insight, and pathos…Boyle has carved out a beautiful, damp, atmospheric novel, sharp and exacting, with the tip of a rusty knife on a piece of driftwood.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “In T. C. Boyle’s San Miguel, two strong women generations apart are seduced and mistreated by the same powerful entity—not a man but a starkly beautiful, barely inhabited island off the California coast…Boyle portrays the heartbreaking toll San Miguel takes on these couples in a novel as beguiling as the island itself.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “[Boyle’s] evocations of landscape are vivid and he can dream up a cast of characters—the families, their hired hands, their visitors by sea and later by air—with verve.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “Ripe with exhaustively researched period detail, Boyle’s epic saga of struggle, loss, and resilience tackles Pacific pioneer history with literary verve. [He] subtly interweaves the fates of Native Americans, Irish immigrants, Spanish and Italian migrant workers, and Chinese fisherman into the Waters’ and Lesters’ lives, but the novel is primarily a history of the land itself, unchanging despite its various visitors and residents, and as beautiful, imperfect, and unrelenting as Boyle’s characters.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “The fourteenth novel from Boyle returns to the Channel Islands off the coast of California, a setting which served him so well in his previous novel…What may seem to some like paradise offers no happy endings in this fine novel.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A 2012 Kansas City Star Top 100 Book for Fiction
  • A 2012 BookPage Best Book for Fiction
  • A 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Fiction
  • One of the 2012 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
  • A Kirkus Reviews Top 25 Book, September 2012

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kasa Cotugno | 2/20/2014

    " T C Boyle has found his niche -- after remaining unclassifiable through years of writing diverse works that roamed all possibilities but never settled on one genre, he has taken to a form of historical fiction that breathes life into the past. As he lives in Santa Barbara, in the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in the area, his fascination with his city's past has resulted in several explorations. This latest tells the story of San Miguel Island through the eyes of three women who lived there, two in the late 1800's and one during the 1930's. He brings a modern understanding to earlier times in a way no other author does, and because of his personal attraction to the area, fills the pages with more than usual period detail and verisimilitude. Highly recommended. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stephanie | 2/9/2014

    " Beautifully written, terrifically depressing. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Michael Jenkins | 2/6/2014

    " Although this book started off interesting, it did not pull me in. As intriguing as it was, the characters felt to interest me throughout and find myself questioning why I even bothered. There are a few things that I look for in a novel and this one lacked the crucial things. The content of the story itself was good but too many loopholes and inconsistency. However I will say that the first part of the story had potential but did not bother to suffer through the other parts. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janis Risch | 2/3/2014

    " One of my favorite authors. Enjoyed the book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Pat | 1/31/2014

    " This work of historical fiction is not a happy story by any means, but it is somewhat interesting. The setting is the northern most Channel Island off of Southern California, and it is the story of 2 real women taken to the island by men - one in the 1800s and one in the early 1900s. There was nothing easy in their life and the first woman is miserable and finds a way off the island while the second is very happy with the isolation. Yet again, a book that I was happy to see end, but equally happy that I did finish it. Not one I can recommend, but redeemable by the wide span of history covered! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Gail | 1/30/2014

    " I have read three other books by T.C. Boyle that I rally enjoyed. I struggled to get through the book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 George | 1/19/2014

    " Set on an island off the California coast, T.C. Boyle's San Miguel does a beautiful job of capturing the isolation of his setting. He writes wonderfully, artful without being pretentious, well-detailed without being overly verbose. I really think I could have liked this book a lot more than I did, if it wasn't so boring. Part of the problem, I suspect, is that when an author does such a good job of portraying desolation, it falls on the characters to keep things interesting. For much of the first half of the book, we see things through the eyes of Marantha, a woman who moves to the island of San Miguel with her husband and adopted daughter in the 1880s ostensibly because it will be good for her tuberculosis, but really because her husband has used her money to buy into a sheep-ranching business and San Miguel's where all the sheep are. The blurb on the book's inside cover says that the stories in the book are told "from the points of view of the strong-willed, sympathetic, determinedly optimistic women who anchor them." I'm fairly sure that whoever wrote that blurb skipped the entire section about Marantha. Marantha is whiny, often cruel, and self-absorbed. The TB provides some of the excuse... I can't imagine it being very easy to stay positive or nice when you keep hacking up blood. Still, if Boyle had chosen to stay with her much longer than he did, I fear I would have given up the book entirely. The next section is narrated by her adopted daughter, Edith, and that one's a little more lively, although it gets cut short. In the final section, we follow Elise, a librarian from New York who moves to San Miguel in 1930 with her new husband. The key to this last section is the obvious timebomb that is her husband, who provides tension and suspense to what should have been an idyllic story about newlyweds. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tracy | 1/16/2014

    " T.C. Boyle is one of my favorite authors, so it pains me to say I did not enjoy this book. I didn't even finish it, which is unusual for me. It was beautifully written, just desperately boring. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elizabeth Wettick | 1/5/2014

    " I love TC Boyle. This was a great story but doesn't top World's End which is one of my favorite books ever "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Donna | 12/24/2013

    " Not his best but I liked it alot! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Francesca | 10/1/2013

    " The best parts were those sections dealing with the Island. This novel is the stories of three actual families who lived on San Miguel. I didn't care about some of them and really didn't like the audiobook reader's rendering. The book might, read, might be better. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anne | 7/5/2013

    " This book is actually two stories tied together but almost 50 years apart. After reading the first one, I would have rated the book 2 stars but decided to keep reading and the second part was much better. I like Boyle's way with words but didn't care for all of his characters. Still a decent book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ginna | 7/1/2013

    " I really liked this novel of about one of the islands off the coast of California. Almost like 2 novels in one, it tells the story of 2 different women and their experiences living on a largely uninhabited island. It is also the portrait of 2 marriages and motherhood. I always enjoy TC Boyle. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mitchell | 6/16/2013

    " The first TC Boyle book I've read -- and the last if the others aren't any better. This was such a "girlie" book, nothing but a long yarn, not one memorable sentence or phrase, so-so descriptions and characters. The book never came to life. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jillyp | 4/13/2013

    " Very similar to Floreana, set in the Galapagos. But I guess life on an island would have much the same concerns anywhere. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 maven | 2/18/2013

    " Two separate families' experiences on an island off the coast of California, each with aspects that drew my interest. However, I felt like I wanted to hear more about each story, and the segue between the time periods was not that smooth, so the time shift was a bit rough. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robin | 1/20/2013

    " San Miguel is charming and compelling, a meditation on solitude. "

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About the Author

T. C. Boyle is the author of more than a dozen novels, including Drop City, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and World’s End, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award. He has also written numerous short-story collections. He lives near Santa Barbara, California.

About the Narrator

Barbara Caruso, winner of numerous Earphones Awards for narration, is an accomplished actress. A graduate of London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she was a featured player in the Royal Shakespeare Company. She has played starring roles on Broadway and in theaters across the country. She won the Alexander Scourby Reader of the Year Award for her performances of young adult fiction and has more than one hundred audiobook narrations to her credit.