*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Island Sisters, I provide your book club with a brief summary, food ideas and a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
The Island Sisters is Micki Berthelot Morency’s debut novel. Told from the perspective of four women from the islands of Haiti, St. Thomas, and Guam, it is a story of life-long friendship held together by an unbreakable bond.
When the four women meet at college, they discover their shared pasts and form a friendship that sees them through difficult marriages, motherhood, and much more.
The novel follows all four women as they travel through life, sometimes across oceans, but stay forever linked together as the “island sisters.”
The Island Sisters is a novel chosen through Book Club Bites’ collaboration with The Best of Women’s Fiction podcast. Don’t forget to check out the fabulous Best of Women’s Fiction podcast where Micki Morency discusses The Island Sisters and more: HERE.
I’ve provided book club questions and delicious food ideas for The Island Sisters and Micki has a special recipe for you! So if you are looking for book club ideas and more, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of The Island Sisters:
From the publisher:
Four women from Haiti, St. Thomas, and Guam meet at a college counseling session for first-year students and learn they have a shared history of abuse. Dubbing themselves the “island sisters,” their unyielding friendship is their touchstone across oceans, through labyrinths of forced marriages and violent men, motherhood, and their dreams of freedom.
Strong-willed and hot-headed Monique, quiet and romantic Cecilia, devout Lanei, and determined Ella are four friends who seem to makeup for what the other lacks. But no matter what is happening in their lives or the struggles they face, they share an unbreakable bond of friendship that serves as their anchor, helping and supporting each other through and through.
To succeed, each woman must make choices that will challenge her long-held cultural beliefs, choices that will come with consequences, in the pursuit of her own individual freedom.
For The Island Sisters Food Ideas:
Micki Morency was kind enough to provide us with a delicious, authentic Haitian recipe that will feed a group! I loved learning about the history of this soup (see Micki’s notes below!).
Soup Joumou is a traditional Haitian soup that is bursting with vegetables, beef, and flavor. If you love butternut squash or pumpkin-based soups, you’ll love this soup.
This recipe makes a huge batch of soup and will easily feed a large book club, if you have one.
For this soup, the beef stew meat is marinated overnight in a mix of spices and citrus juice to add extra flavor. Butternut squash or pumpkin is then boiled and pureed to make a thick soup base. Chopped vegetables and a small amount of penne pasta are then added to make this a hearty dish.
As Micki notes, you can get creative with your own flavor profile and adjust the seasoning to your liking, but the base of this soup is a healthy, veggie-rich delight.
Whether you choose something from this list or try your own option, I hope these ideas will get your creative juices flowing to host your book club for The Island Sisters.
The Island Sisters Book Club Recipe:
SOUP JOUMOU (HAITIAN PUMPKIN SOUP)
- 4 garlic cloves peeled
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 medium green and red pepper chopped
- Fresh parsley leaves
- ½ tablespoon of salt
- ¼ tsp of black pepper
- ¼ cup of sour orange juice or lime juice
- 4 carrots scraped and cut in round slices
- 3 lbs of butternut squash or pumpkin peeled, seeded and cut in chunk
- 3 celery stalks diced
- 2 cups chopped cabbage
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 1 Rutabaga peeled and cut in slices
- 1 stalk of leek
- 2 medium white potato
- 6 oz of penne
- 2 lb of beef stew big chunk
- Rinse meat in cold water
- In a bowl, pour the sour orange or lime juice and ½ cup of water over meat and stir, then drain excess fluid.
- Add all the spices in a blender/food processor with ¼ cup of water and blend coarsely. Pour the content over the meat and thoroughly mixed with 2 tablespoon of olive oil. Leave in the fridge to marinate overnight.
- Place the meat in a medium pot with 1 cup of water. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat stirring occasionally. Set the heat as needed, until the meat is tender but not falling apart about 1-1.5 hours).
- Simultaneously, boil squash in a pot until fully cooked. Place in a blender with some of the cooking water and liquify it.
- In a pot, add 4 cups of water (you can use the squash water) and all the vegetables. Pour the blended squash in the pot and add the meat. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to medium. Let simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally Taste the sauce and add additional seasoning if desired. Remember freedom!
- Add the penne last. Turn off burner once pasta is cooked (approximately 10 mins).
- Bon appétit!
More Fun from Micki Morency:
Please insert a short description of your recipe and why it relates to your novel. Include any information you think readers would enjoy!
Soup Joumou (Haitian pumpkin Soup) is served every year on January 1st in celebration of Haiti’s independence from France in 1804 to become the first Black Republic in the Americas. If you’re Haitian, no matter where you are in the world you’ll find or make the soup on New Year’s Day.
You have to cook soup Joumou with love and pride in your heart knowing that it represents the sacrifices made by our ancestors and it guarantees a full belly. As a kid in Haiti, along with my siblings and friends, we’d go door to door to eat soup from neighbors. At the end of the day, we’d count the many bowls of soup we’d eaten based on the number of dots of dried soup we’d intentionally dropped on the front of our tops.
DISCLAIMER: Haitians are not keen on cooking with EXACT recipe. Remember this is also called “FREEDOM SOUP” so make it your own.
In THE ISLAND SISTERS, Ella, one of the characters made the soup for the other sisters. She was born on New Year’s Day.
Good food and a good book go hand-in-hand. What is your favorite food to enjoy while reading?
Cassava made with coconut and brown sugar
Did you sample any interesting food while researching this book? Or experience anything exciting while researching?
In Guam, I loved red rice, and parrot fish, Bunelos Uhang (corn fritter). In St Thomas, I enjoyed Kallaloo soup, conch, fish&fungi. I am Haitian, so I knew the Haitian cuisine well.
The Island Sisters Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
These book club questions were kindly provided by the author and/or publisher. Please use only for your book club and do not reproduce them.
- Do you think the women’s cultures inform the choices they make in their romantic relationships?
- Do you think these four women act/react differently than white women would?
- Who’s your favorite character? Why? Who’s your least favorite character? Why?
- How do you feel about the ending? Would you have written a different ending? Overall, how does the book make you feel?
- Which character would you want to hang out with? Why?
- Did you go back to read any passages? Would you read more from this author?
- How significant are the bracelets in keeping the friends connected across distances? How did their friendship support the women toward achieving their academic goals?
- What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned from the book? Do the different settings help you understand the cultures and the characters’ motivation?
- How do you envision the characters’ lives after the book ends?
- How does this book compare to other books you might have read about domestic violence?
The author can be found online!
Check out her website where you can find links to connect with Micki on social media!
Don’t forget to check out the fabulous Best of Women’s Fiction podcast where Micki Morency discusses The Island Sisters and more: HERE.
Have you read The Island Sisters? What did you think? Did it satisfy you or were you left wishing for more? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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