The Invisible Husband of Frick Island
“The Invisible Husband of Frick Island links the modern world with the past on a small island struggling to stay afloat literally and figuratively. It’s a lively, heartwarming story with eccentric characters depicting the lengths a small community will go to in support of one of its own.”
Piper Parrish lives on Frick Island and works at the local deli. At the end of every afternoon, she waits on the marina’s dock for Tom’s boat to come puffing into the harbor after “squeezing in every minute of the government-allotted eight hours of crabbing per day.” Piper and Tom are newlywed, childhood sweethearts, and Piper is patient for her husband’s return. “Time on the rustic Frick Island had always been more of a theoretical concept measured in jiffies or whiles or later ons,” so she is used to delays. When a boat captain tells her Tom radioed for help during a storm earlier that morning, and that his boat is now missing, Piper holds out hope for Tom’s return, even when his boat is found at the bottom of the sea four days later.
Anders Caldwell is ambitious. He plans to climb from his first reporting job out of college to the national spotlight. At the Daily Telegraph, he covers small-town, community events and figures, “The faster he proved himself, the quicker he could start working on bigger, more interesting assignments.” When his boss assigns him coverage of the Frick Island Cake Walk, Anders goes home to his studio apartment to look up the island on the internet. He discovers, “Frick Island is a 1.2-mile strip of land in the Chesapeake Bay, twelve miles off the coast of Winder on the eastern shore of Maryland. With no airstrip or bridges, the island is accessible only by boat.” Anders learns, “The town boasts one church, one general store/market, and one restaurant.” A sequestered community without internet service, where natives share a unique dialect, Frick Island has one schoolhouse, “although there are no longer enough children to fill it.”
Committed to treating the uninspiring cakewalk assignment “as though it were a 1A feature,” Anders boards the Frick Island Ferry and pays the passage by dropping money in a bucket. Having given up on using cell service, he finds his way to the cake walk at the Methodist church by asking for direction from locals, then spends time at the annual event in what becomes a comedy of errors. When he misses the erratically scheduled boat back to the mainland on account of the weather, Anders is stranded on Frick Island for the night, and he spies the beautiful Piper Parrish in the local seafood restaurant, sitting alone and talking to herself. Intrigued, Anders asks a restaurant employee if Piper is married, and the man replies, “Depends on who you ask.”
Back on the mainland, Anders, on a whim, records an episode on his Frick Island visit for his anemically viewed podcast, which he started in college, and for which he has visions of grandeur. When he receives a viewer comment that reads, “You came all the way to Frick Island and missed the biggest story out here, you’re not very observant,” Anders does an internet search and finds a string of hyperlinks, one with the headline, Frick Island: A Place in Crisis. Due to global warming, the article suggests, and what with Frick Island being at sea level, Anders deduces that within the next two hundred years, the island could be underwater. In short order, he returns to Frick Island, planning to research the global warming story. What he comes across, instead, is the unique story of the islanders support for the widow, Piper Parrish.
Author Colleen Oakley’s delightful, fast-paced novel is written in au currant language full of quirky personality. With a tight lens on a captivating premise, she unfurls the dynamic of an island community going along with Piper’s delusion that her husband isn’t dead. As Piper walks about town talking to the ghost of Tom, the locals go along with it, and it makes for spectacular literary theater.
In the interest of building listenership for his podcast, Anders schedules repeated trips to Frick Island, and becomes all the more involved with the community. Under the guise of interviewing Piper for the effects of global warming on Frick Island, Anders tells everyone he’s doing research for his podcast, which gains thirty thousand listeners due to the episodic popularity of Piper and her invisible husband, which the locals can’t hear because the town has no cell service.
In a tragicomedy twist, Anders realizes he has feelings for Piper and decides to call the whole thing off at the same time a cell tower is finally installed on Frick island. The climax brings all diverse elements in the story into a resolute and satisfying alignment.
The Invisible Husband of Frick Island links the modern world with the past on a small island struggling to stay afloat literally and figuratively. It’s a lively, heartwarming story with eccentric characters depicting the lengths a small community will go to in support of one of its own.