“Shay, an African American professor married to a brash Italian businessman, is seduced by the beauty and exoticism of Madagascar. The lavish Red Island House her husband builds (supposedly for her but more as a testament to his success) affords Shay a dream vacation home, but as she navigates her role as its mistress, she must also come to terms with the effects of colonialism on the people of this island nation, a people with whom she shares skin color and a legacy. Across 20 years, Lee weaves stories of those who arrogantly deem a paradise for their taking with those left grasping for what is rightfully theirs. This is a provocative tale of magic, power, and identity.”
Linda Sherman-Nurick, Cellar Door Books
From National Book Award–nominated writer Andrea Lee comes a gorgeously evocative epic about love, clashing cultures, and identity, set in the tropical African island nation of Madagascar.
“People do mysterious things when they think they’ve found paradise,” reflects Shay, the heroine of Red Island House. When Shay, a Black American professor who’s always had an adventurous streak, marries Senna, an Italian businessman, she doesn’t imagine that her life’s greatest adventure will carry her far beyond their home in Milan to an idyllic stretch of beach in Madagascar, where Senna builds a flamboyant vacation villa. Before she knows it, Shay has become the somewhat reluctant mistress of a sprawling household, caught between her privileged American upbringing and her connection to the continent of her ancestors.
At first, she’s content to be an observer of the passionate affairs and fierce rivalries around her, but over twenty tumultuous years of marriage, as she and Senna raise children and establish their own rituals at the house, Shay finds herself drawn ever deeper into a place where a blend of magic, sexual intrigue, and transgression forms a modern-day parable of colonial conquest. Soon the collision of cultures comes right to Shay’s door, forcing her to make a life-altering decision that will change her and Senna’s lives forever.
A captivating, powerful, and profoundly moving novel about marriage and loyalty, identity and freedom, Red Island House showcases an extraordinary literary voice and an extravagantly lush, enchanted world.