Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Drop In The Ocean by Jenni Ogden

Dr. Anna Fergusson has come to age fifty as an introverted career woman.  She has few friends, really only one she opens up to.  She oversees a lab studying Huntington's Disease, a terminal, crippling neurological disorder, but the work has become routine and the team is basically skating on past discoveries.  She has no love life after an early love affair left her brokenhearted.  There is no family.  Her father died when she was young while her mother lives in another country and Anna has only seen her a few times in the past decade.

Then the unimaginable occurs.  Anna's research grant to continue the lab is denied.  She is faced with dismantling the lab, letting go all her research associates and finding something new to do with her life.  It is totally overwhelming.  Seeking refuge, she agrees to a caretaker job for a year on a remote Australian island overseeing a campground.  There are few people there, the island a home to thousands of birds and huge sea turtles but that suits Anna just fine.

As she adjusts to the island, Anna's hard shell starts to open a bit.  The few people on the island are friendly and have made a family of sorts out of necessity.  They open their circle and invite her in.  Pat is an older woman who helps Anna get over her fear of snorkeling.  Living right on the Great Barrier Reef, the ability to snorkel opens up her life tremendously.  There there is Tom.  Tom is a research associate studying the great turtles.  Anna starts to help him tag the turtles as they come ashore to lay eggs and count them.  The hardships that these turtles go through to fulfill their imperative to survive is impressive.  Tom is a decade younger than Anna, but as the weeks go by, their friendship starts to turn to love.

Over Anna's year on the island, she comes out of her own shell to accept the friendship and love she finds there.  She helps others work through the difficulties they undergo and focuses on others for the first time in her life.  When a visitor comes to the island who has Huntington's Disease, she learns to understand the human dimensions of the illness she studied for so many years.

Jenni Ogen has written a hauntingly beautiful tale about how in life it is never too late to open oneself to joy, friendship and love.  It only takes willingness to focus outside yourself and to worry about others and share in their delights while helping them through challenges.  The reader cannot help but pull for Anna, delighted that she is finally claiming the life that was waiting for her.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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