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  • So engaging!

    Despite some time period jumps that got a little confusing, this was a well-paced and intriguing read! Definitely recommended!

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  • Great Debut Novel

    The Vines by Shelley Nolden is part mystery and part science fiction, set in New York state. My Synopsis: (No major reveals, but if concerned, skip to My Opinions) In 1902 Riverside Hospital on the North Brother Island off the coast of New York City, served as a quarantine station for outbreaks of measles, typhus, tuberculosis and scarlet fever. During this time, Dr. Otto Gettler was one of the main physicians. He would do anything to find a cure. One of his patients was a girl named Cora. In 1952, Riverside Hospital was serving as an experimental rehabilitation hospital. One of its returning physicians was Dr. Ulrich Gettler (Otto's son). He had taken a brief hiatus to work in Dachau, but returned to Riverside to renew his experiments. One of his patients was a woman named Cora. In 1992, Riverside Hospital was closed, but still the Gettler's visited. Both Dr. Rollie Gettler (Ulrich's son) and his own son, Dr. Kristian Gettler, continued the original research. Their patient was named Cora. In 2007, Finn Gettler is trying to find out why his family has been so involved with Riverside. He has always been kept out of the loop. Although the island is currently off-limits to everyone, and designated as a bird sanctuary, Finn sneaks onto the island. There he finds a woman named Cora. My Opinions: First, North Brother Island does exist, and is now a bird sanctuary. In the past, however, it really did house Riverside Hospital which started out as holding smallpox patients, and eventually other patients requiring quarantine...like Typhoid Mary who actually stayed there. Eventually it was an addiction center for teens. There was also a steamship wreck (The General Slocum) off the coast. So the author wove the past history of the island into her story, and it worked well. However, let us remember that this is a fiction novel, so you will have to leave some of your beliefs at the door, and know that you are venturing into the unknown and somewhat unbelievable....a bit of science fiction rolled into the story of a woman abandoned by society. The writing was good, and the story interesting. I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but this was good, because both the research and story was good. Character-wise, most of the Gettler's were quite easy to hate, but I truly loved Cora. She was such a heroic yet tragic figure. Her story was told by going back and forth between the years (and the different Gettlers) until we had her whole life story. Finn was okay, and his mom was great! Sometimes I felt the characters were a little stilted, and most of the time I felt their so-called "for the good of society" was just an excuse for torture and abuse. But most of my complaints are minor. Yes, I felt the book was too long, parts dragged. As well, it wasn't until the end that I discovered that there would be a sequel.....I usually like to know that going into the first book. However, that is more the publisher's problem than the authors. For a debut novel, Shelley Nolden did well.

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    1 person found this review helpful

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  • Stellar Debut!

    The Vines is the debut novel by Shelley Nolden. It is an interesting book in many ways. There were things I liked and things I didn't like. Overall, it was a worthwhile read. I actually acquired more respect for her work after I read her author notes at the back of the book. It is also at the end that we find out there is a sequel in the works! I loved learning the history of North Brother Island and Riverside Hospital's 125 plus year residency there. The story visits many time periods and flips back and forth between them throughout the book. The author did a lot of research for this book and it shines through. The main characters in the book are fictional but, many of the secondary characters are taken from the real people who lived and worked there throughout the years. I didn't care for the Gettler men who seemed to pass down their position of head doctor to the next generation in the family. I liked Cora and admired her ability to survive the many medical experiments and long, harsh years she has and will spend there. For some reason I had a harder time connecting with the fictional characters than the real ones. If you like history, old buildings, medical research and a little mystery then this book is for you. It will be a stellar debut for for Shelley Nolden! I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher and Netgalley for a fair and honest review. Thank you!

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  • Unique and creative medical/historical thriller

    What a unique and creative book. The author wove together elements of a medical thriller with historical fiction and a little dash of science fiction to create a rich and interesting story that is shockingly relevant to today’s current events. Finn the youngest member of the Gettler family, and the only family member for generations who is not a medical doctor and researcher. For years the Gettler family has immersed itself in researching communicable diseases and their cures. Finn’s great grandfather, Otto, and grandfather, Ulrich, were each the head physician of the now defunct medial facility on North Brothers Island, just across the river from New York City. The medial facility was used in the early 1900s as a quarantine for those with the most dangerous facility – it was once home to Typhoid Mary. Finn is aware that his family’s history relates to the ruins now standing on North Brothers Island, but the family is still mysteriously tied to the island. Finn kayaks to try to learn more about the family obsessions and secrets. There he encounters a beautiful and enigmatic young woman named Cora whose body is covered in a heartbreaking network of scars. She is enraged by Finn’s presence on the island and notes her hatred for the Gettler family. They have been doing her harm all the way back to Otto’s generation nearly 100 years ago. Finn is puzzled – how can that be? From here, the narrative splits to fill in Cora’s back story, starting when she first arrived at the island, while Finn works in the present day to try to unravel the secrets hiding in his family’s history. It’s clear that the author, Shelley Nolden, completed a considerable amount of research for this novel. The history of North Brothers Island as a medical quarantine and research facility is true and fascinating. It gave me a lot to think about in light of the current pandemic and the question of medical ethics. The conditions, the daily life of patients there – where is the line between patient and inmate? The Gettler family has been researching for years in an attempt to develop vaccines to stop some of the world’s deadliest diseases. But how do you balance a person’s own rights versus the greater good of the community that will result from an effective vaccine or treatment? Nolden tackles these questions in a setting of beautiful, descriptive imagery. I was fascinated by the idea of vegetation slowly reclaiming the island, turning the buildings into wild ruins, all within a stone’s throw of the hustle and bustle of New York City. And could a person really live alone in the resulting wilderness, undetected by authorities, for decades? This book was full of interesting characters with complex relationships. There was plenty of action and the plot moved along at a good pace. I think it would make a great movie, and I would recommend this book to fans of thrillers or historical fiction.

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  • Timely, action-packed, and supernaturally creepy!

    The Vines transports you to North Brother Island, NY, from 1902 to 2008 and immerses you in all the obsession, tragedy, emotions, memories, fantastical elements, destruction, experimentation, sickness, and long-buried secrets that mars and defines the multi-generational, Gettler family. The prose is mysterious and dark. The characters are obsessed, callous, and ruthless. And the plot told from alternating timelines is a fascinating, engrossing tale full of familial drama, heartache, tension, sacrifice, violence, and intriguing, historical medical philosophies and procedures. Overall, The Vines is a spellbinding, atmospheric, sinister tale by Nolden that not only highlights her incredible knowledge and passion for a time and place that is often unknown, forgotten or overlooked, but also does a remarkable job of reminding us that advances in medicine has both a light and a dark side, as the power to help and heal often comes at a price.

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