April 12, 2021

The Vines

The Vines

by Shelley Nolden

Published March 23, 2021
by Freiling Publishing

Rating: 4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery & Thrillers


In the shadows of New York City lies forbidden North Brother Island, where the remains of a shuttered hospital hide the haunting memories of century-old quarantines and human experiments. The ruins conceal the scarred and beautiful Cora, imprisoned by contagions and the doctors who torment her. When Finn, a young urban explorer, arrives on the island and glimpses an enigmatic beauty through the foliage, intrigue turns to obsession as he seeks to uncover her past—and his own family’s dark secrets. By unraveling these mysteries, will he be able to save Cora? Will Cora meet the same tragic ending as the thousands who’ve already perished on the island?

The Vines intertwines North Brother Island’s horrific and elusive history with a captivating tale of love, betrayal, survival, and loss.

My Thoughts

I don’t often read historical fiction, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that Shelley Nolden wrote a thoroughly relatable book.

How do mysterious science experiments relate to us?

  1. Viral contagions, that caused social isolation (to the extreme in this case).
  2. An island, in sightline of the Bronx.
  3. Herons (because I have one that sits across the pond from me as I type this).
  4. Male/female power struggles.
  5. Preservation of historic buildings/lands
  6. Did I mention herons?
  7. Medical ethics.
  8. And so many other timely issues without being preachy or pedantic.

Nolden does an excellent job of weaving factual, historical events into the story of Cora and how she came to be on the real life (and now abandoned) North Brother Island. Her retelling of the events will have you searching the web for more information and wondering how many other historical events/places exist in our own backyard that we are unaware of.

While the story did seem to go on a little and get bogged down in some of the early timeline, it has all the other good stuff: mystery, intrigue, suspense. The story of Cora, Finn and the strange little island will stay with you long after you finish the book.

Thanks to NetGalley and Freiling Publishing for an advanced reader’s copy.

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