Sometimes the cover of a book is so pretty and eye-catching that you just have to read it. The Island at the End of Everything is a beautiful and heart-breaking story that highlights the very worst and the very best in people. A read full of adventures, bravery, love, loss and a lot of butterflies.
Twelve year old Ami lives on the island of Culion in the Philippines with her Nanay (mother). Culion is the only life that she has ever known and contains everything in the world that is dear to her. The island should be paradise with its clear blue skies, sparkling oceans and lush forests but Nanay is sick. She is one of the ‘Touched’, a leper, and has been sent to the island of Culion along with many others in what has become a leper colony.
When an evil government appointed health official by the name of Mr. Zamora, arrives on the island with his plan to rid the world of the ‘Touched’ and free the ‘innocents’, Ami’s world is turned upside down. His plans will see the segregation of the island inhabitants; areas for Sano (clean) and Lepreso (leper), and most troubling for Ami - any Sano under the age of eighteen will be moved to an orphanage on the neighbouring island of Coron.
Finding herself banished to the orphanage and separated from her Nanay, Ami is desperate to return to her old life. When she receives words via letter that her leper Nanay has been admitted to hospital with a complication she fears the worst. Knowing that she must get back to Culion a plan begins to form in her mind. With the help of Mari (a girl named for butterflies) and an abandoned boat a daring journey back towards home begins.
So much of what Hargrave writes about and the issues that she raises are much too close to reality. Whilst this is fiction, the events she writes about are real. 1906 was a time when lepers were seen as less than human and their supposed disgusting nature made them something to be fearful of and as such they were sent away to islands of leper colonies. Even now, in the multicultural world of the 21st century it is still apparent that people are afraid of what is different - be it race, religion, appearance, social status, homeless, etc. Hargrave highlights the truly awful implications of what happens when man judges fellow man by just one trait.
Despite the harsh events that take place the book is full of positive messages. The strength of children swimming (or in this case rowing) against the tide. Of finding the courage to go against the adults who have imposed life-changing rules upon them. Of how friendship, hope and kindness can and will always prevail.
In Ami and Mari, Hargrave has created characters that you become emotionally attached to. I love Mari who encourages Ami to overcome her worries and anxieties. She is very much the glass half full to Ami’s glass half empty. Promoting the importance of dealing with problems as they arise and not wasting energy on worrying about everything that could possibly go wrong. I really feel for Ami’s plight. She is viewed as disgusting because of her nanay’s condition and is therefore feared. Even though Ami has been tested and proven to be Sano, she struggles to shake off the tag of being dirty and Touched - as if leperosy can be caught just by being around her.
A wonderful read for 10+.