• Lucy Carnegie, wife of industrialist Thomas Carnegie, dreamed of creating on Cumberland Island a home where her children would be safe from the smoke and soot-filled skies over Pittsburgh. Protected by the waters of the Cumberland Sound,

    the estate she built encompassed nearly the entire island. It was a perfect world, until the outside world intruded. Stone by stone it all came tumbling down. Wild horses now crop the grass around the burnt-out mansion. Rattlesnakes nest among the ruins.

    A century later, another family comes to Cumber-
    land to walk among the horses and to accept what gifts the island has to offer: solitude, unspoiled wilderness, and wildlife free to roam undisturbed. Returning year after year, Rhamy and her parents explore the island and swim in the ocean.

    They picnic on the beach where servants once served champagne, shrimp cocktails, and crab cakes to the Carnegie family and their guests. They gaze at the chimneys surrounding Stafford house, all that remain of slave quarters that once housed plantation field hands. They mourn for Zabette,

    daughter of a plantation owner and his black servant, sold to a man who fathered her six children, then abandoned her. Always, everywhere on the island, the horses graze nearby, unaware of efforts by environmentalists to remove them from the island where they have lived for centuries.

    Traveling to the north end of the island, the family sits for a quiet moment in the church where JFK Jr. married Carolyn Bessette. Across the pasture is the shack where naturalist Carol Ruckdeschel has lived for fifty years and the porch where her lover lay dead, shot through the heart.

    In the campgrounds, on the beach, at the Dungeness dock, wild horses graze. For now, they are safe.
    * * *

Islomanes of Cumberland Island Coming Soon!

Histria Books will publish Islomanes of Cumberland Island in November. It will appear under their Addison & Highsmith imprint in the fall catalogue. Needless to say, I am thrilled. My family has been visiting Cumberland every spring for the last 15 years. That’s what the book is about. That, and the wild horses, the Carnegie family (Thomas and Lucy, not Andrew) who once owned nearly the entire island, the biologist who shot her former lover, the wedding of JFK Jr., a near drowning in the ocean, a thunderstorm from hell. Discord in the family, but also a closeness that would have not been possible anywhere but on an island.

“Islomane” is a word invented by the writer Lawrence Durrell to explain the feeling one gets when one is on an island: as if they have come home, they belong there, they are at peace, they are safe.

From the Civil War to the Gilded Age to the Environmentalism of today, controversy has engulfed the island. Against this background are the adventures and interactions of family members that will make you laugh and sometimes make you cry.


About the Author

Rita Welty Bourke

Rita Welty Bourke is the author of Kylie’s Ark: The Making of a Veterinarian, a Kirkus’ Best Indie Book of the Year Selection. She has published over forty works of fiction and non-fiction in literary magazines including The North American Review, Cimarron Review, Louisiana Literature, Shenandoah, Witness, and the Black Warrior Review. One of her stories, Gunnison Beach, has been included in an anthology entitled “Naked” compiled by Susan Zakin. Five have been nominated for Pushcart prizes. Read more »


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