ONE NIGHT ON THE ISLAND is a multi-layered, emotional roller-coaster that takes a common tale of love and second chances and spins it into something heartfelt and unique.
Cleo lives in London and writes a dating column, but is a disillusioned singleton. The much younger oops baby in her family, she doesn’t quite belong anywhere. When her boss packs her off to a remote Irish island to ‘marry herself’, and entertain their readers with updates on the ceremony, Cleo finds the plan ridiculous. Even so, she’s drawn to the idea of celebrating her 30th birthday alone in a luxury one-room cabin, and packs a white dress.
Mack Sullivan is a famous Boston photographer caught up in the grey nothingness of a failed marriage. He wants only to be there for his young sons in a way his father wasn’t for him, but his wife, who instigated the separation, has a new lover. He’s hoping that solitude on the weather-beaten island of his ancestors will provide clarity on how to move forward … because right now, he’s stuck.
Thanks to a booking mix up, Cleo and Mack become roommates. There are no alternative accommodations and no way off the island until the boat returns. And ferry crossings depend on the weather.
As they attempt to share the cabin, they set ground rules. Cleo takes the sofa, Mack the bed, and they divide the space in half with a chalk line. (I loved the chalk!) At night, lying in the dark, they start a game: sharing three things about themselves. This was my favorite part of the novel, providing a window into their fears, their hopes, their backstories.
Cleo and Mack need each other, but they’re both a little broken. To emerge as a couple, he must navigate the messy complications of his life and she must embark on a journey of self discovery. No spoilers, but I cried when Mack wrote sorry on the beach with shells.
Meanwhile the fictitious island provides a magical setting with hidden niches of beauty. From day one, the quirky islanders pull Mack and Cleo in their community, teasing them with the label of newlyweds and welcoming them into everything from the knitting circle to the pub. Maybe that’s the true meaning of the novel: you can search for home in all the wrong places, and then find it by accident.