Siddons has long been a popular writer, with her many novels of the Old South, the elite layers of Charleston society, where life is ruled by ritual and tradition. The author's specialty is the Low Country, the islands off the coast, where generations spend their summers free from the worries of the world.
In her latest novel, Islands, Siddons introduces a "newcomer" into a group of childhood friends, a young woman who marries one of them. Anny merges her life with this exceptional group of loyal friends, and she is thrilled to be part of family in a different context than she has ever experienced. Her own childhood was less than ideal, Anny parenting her siblings in place of her alcoholic mother.
Spending weekends at their communal beach shack, an idyllic setting by any standards, Anny cannot imagine anything more perfect or ever changing. Of course this is an impossible fantasy, for as the years pass and the group reaches the millennium, they begin a slow process of losing their mates to age and illness. Exceptionally prescient, the friends have thought ahead and made a pledge on one of their summer weekends: no matter what happens, they will keep the group intact, be supportive when spouses are lost, and maintain a residence where all can live in comfort and security.
They do hold together through the most devastating and painful losses, gathering around their emotional center, Camilla, the first widowed. When only a few are left, the commitment remains intact, unquestioned. Camilla is the cement that holds them together, these few dear friends from childhood and their spouses. But as Camilla's health becomes more fragile, the more the others worry about her increasing debilitation. As much as the enduring ties of friendship, Siddons writes of loss and the gradual attrition of the years, the intervention of fate on the best of situations.
Anny clings to those who have been her family; they have given her the emotional security she has craved all her life. But it would be a mistake to take Siddons for granted, because the author hasn't mellowed all that much, planning a few surprises for her readers. The message is clear: getting older doesn’t mean it's over, nor is life ever as simple and uncomplicated as a group of old friends gathered around a cozy beach fire on a winter afternoon, pledging their undying loyalty. The heart can be the source of thoughtless mischief or a well of generosity. For this author it is a source of endless inspiration.