T.C. Boyle

Again T.C. Boyle has turned to the Channel Islands, a hazy view west of his Santa Barbara home, for a history-inspired novel. Two families attempt to settle on the islands in San Miguel (Viking, $27.95), one in 1888, the other in 1930. Where the islands (and invasive species) created political turmoil in his When the Killing’s Done, San Miguel is more of a domestic novel, closely concerned with family routines and tensions. For both families, charged with raising sheep for their tenancy, the isolation first seems like a place of refuge and healing. In part one, our heroine has tuberculosis. And both husbands are recovering from battlefield trauma (in the Civil War and World War I, respectively). But no island is a paradise. There are mice, there’s filth and boredom, and the livestock don’t offer much entertainment. One teenage daughter seeks to escape what she considers a prison. Children are born, and men are driven to self-destruction. In the novel’s second half, the new matriarch—alone with her husband and baby—ponders her distance from Mussolini, Roosevelt, and the hubbub back on shore: “As if it mattered. And it didn’t. All that mattered was the three of them and the way the seasons turned and the ewes dropped their lambs.” (Presented by Seattle Arts & Lectures.) BRIAN MILLER

Mon., Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m., 2012