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From the New York Times bestselling author Sarah McCoy, a compulsive, sun-splashed voyage of self-discovery with a wealthy divorcee and her two headstrong daughters in 1970s Mustique, the world’s most exclusive private island, where Princess Margaret and Mick Jagger were regulars and long-held secrets are the buried treasures.
It’s January 1972 but the sun is white hot when Willy May Michael’s boat first kisses the dock of Mustique Island. Tucked into the southernmost curve of the Caribbean, Mustique is a private island that has become a haven for the rich and privileged. Its owner is the eccentric British playboy Colin Tennant, who is determined to turn this speck of white sand into a luxurious neo-colonial retreat for his well-to-do friends and into a royal court in exile for the Queen’s rebellious sister, Princess Margaret—one where Her Royal Highness can skinny dip, party, and entertain lovers away from the public eye.
Willy May, a former beauty queen from Texas—who is no stranger to marital scandals—seeks out Mustique for its peaceful isolation. Determined to rebuild her life and her relationships with her two daughters, Hilly, a model, and Joanne, a musician, she constructs a fanciful beach house across the island from Princess Margaret—and finds herself pulled into the island’s inner circle of aristocrats, rock stars, and hangers-on.
When Willy May’s daughters arrive, they discover that beneath its veneer of decadence, Mustique has a dark side, and like sand caught in the undertow, their mother-daughter story will shift and resettle in ways they never could have imagined.
🌟AMAZON Best Book of the Month Pick for Literature & Fiction
🌟BOOKBUB Best Book of Spring Pick
🌟Town & Country Best Book of May Pick
🌟Veranda Magazine Best New Book of Summer Pick
🌟Vox Magazine Pick of May
🌟Best Beach Bag Book Pick by the Satellite Sisters
🌟Deep South Magazine‘s Summer Reading List Pick
“Sarah McCoy’s Mustique Island is a sun-kissed mother-daughter story set against the backdrop of the titular private island.”
— POPSUGAR’s Most Anticipated Books of 2022
“If you’ve ever wanted to slip into a picture by Slim Aarons, renowned photographer of elites on continuous vacations, now is your chance. McCoy’s gorgeous novel takes place on the Caribbean island of Mustique in the 1970s, a getaway for Princess Margaret and her celebrity hangers-on (paging Mick and Bianca). Divorcée Willy May Michael, a former Texas beauty queen, has her heart set on designing a home on the island to help rebuild her relationship with her daughters. Caught up in the social scene’s excesses and the politics of an island with a tangled history of colonization, she and her daughters live in a world of wealth but struggle and sacrifice to make the life they want for themselves.”
— The Washington Post
“If you’re looking forward to a summer of beach books, Mustique Island is the perfect tropical treat to whet your appetite.”
— The Augusta Chronicle
“Mustique Island by Sarah McCoy is an absolute dream come true for literary enthusiasts.”
— Lone Star Lit
“I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers—but this one makes my eyes so happy. When I pulled my early copy of Mustique Island from its envelope, I gasped. Look at it: The punchy, beachy colors! The glamorous, 70’s vibe! That typeface. Even better, Sarah McCoy has the storytelling chops to make the inside as lovely as the outside.”
— Mary Laura Philpott, bestselling author of Bomb Shelter
“Historical fiction lovers will luxuriate in a trip to Mustique Island, Sarah McCoy’s latest novel about a 1970s enclave, and a mother and her daughters who find their new beginnings there. McCoy’s created a big-hearted, enchanting gem.”
— Laura Dave, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me
“Readers will embrace Sarah McCoy’s heartfelt, thoughtful story of mothers and daughters, desire and identity amid the circus life of Mustique Island that asks the questions: what do we owe one another, and what do we owe ourselves?”
— Therese Anne Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of A Good Neighborhood
“I loved every minute of my trip to glorious Mustique Island… Sarah McCoy’s writing is just like the island— so warm and luscious. It lets you feel the warm breeze on your skin and has you rooting for the fabulous Willy May, such a beautifully drawn, strong woman. I couldn’t wait to jump back into this fascinating world each night.”
— Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls
“Glamorous, scandalous, and wholly immersive in a way that will keep you turning pages long after the sun has set, Mustique Island is a captivating story of mothers and daughters told with adventurous spirit and heart. Toss this in your beach bag and your summer reading is set.”
— Steven Rowley, bestselling author of The Guncle
“I am utterly charmed by the characters, the writing, the sunshine, and the way Sarah McCoy seamlessly blends fact and fiction. Mustique Island is an immersive delight and a welcome ray of light.”
— Jane Green, New York Times bestselling author of Sister Stardust
“As soon as I opened this gorgeous novel and sailed with Willy May to the picture-perfect island of Mustique, I was entranced. A moving exploration of the bonds of love and motherhood, Mustique Island is my new favorite Sarah McCoy novel…and the best book I’ve read this year. Pair this novel with a Pink Lady cocktail–made with roselle hibiscus, ginger, and cloves–for a blissful, literary escape.”
— Amanda Ward, New York Times bestselling author of The Jetsetters
“It’s the early 1970s, and it’s perfectly acceptable to name-drop visiting royalty, whether rock (Mick Jagger) or Windsor (Princess Margaret)… sun-drenched and frequently frothy, McCoy’s underlying tale of women-in-crisis who claw their way back to strength carries sobering messages about the importance of family loyalty and resiliency.”
Book Club Discussion Guide
- Had you ever heard of Mustique before you read this novel? Is it a place that you’d want to visit, or set down roots as Willy May did?
- Why do you think Sarah McCoy chose the quote “All good things are wild and free” as this book’s epitaph?
- Willy May tells the reader: “Sometimes a lie did good. One could believe and spread that kind. She was sure of it. Eventually the good lies would manifest.” Do you agree? Do we see any instances of white lies leading to good things in this story?
- When she first meets Colin and Anne Tennant, Texas-born Willy May thinks, “If being a red-blooded American made her an exciting novelty, then she would use that to her advantage.” Does she? Are there benefits to being an outsider in Mustique’s very exclusive society?
- “Mustique felt like a new beginning,” Willy May tells herself. Did that prove to be true for her? What role did Mustique play for other characters in the novel: the Tennants, Princess Margaret, Willy’s daughters Hilly and Joanne?
- What did you make of Colin Tennant? One character says that he “…likes to buck tradition. But deep down he’s really obsessed with it.” How does that inform the world he’s created on Mustique? Is it a world you would like to be a part of?
Anne Tennant says Princess Margaret “comes to Mustique to be anonymous…It’s the only place on earth that she’s guaranteed the right to simply be.” Is that true? What was your impression of Princess Margaret’s life on Mustique?
- What is the relationship between the local people who work on Mustique and the British people who own the land and vacation there?
- Why do Hilly and Joanne come to Mustique? Is it a different place for them than it is for their mother?
- Willy May reproaches herself: “A mother’s job is to protect her children, and I didn’t do that.” Is that true? What is their mother-daughter relationship like at the start of this story versus at the end?
- How did each of the three narrators (Willy May, Hilly, Joanne) show love? How do their relationships to one another shift over the course of the book?
- What do you think the future holds for Willy May and her daughters in the years after this book ends? What kind of future would you imagine for them?
Book Club Activities
- Throw a themed island party! Decorate with beach items, tropical plants, pictures of rainbows, and sea life. Have guests attend in their favorite beach attire. Floppy sunhats encouraged! Serve smoothie beverages, fruit skewers, and cold cucumber bites. Scent the room with a coconut candle.
- Make it a musical. Ask everyone to bring their favorite album or playlist from the 1970s to set the mood while you discuss the book. It might even inspire a book club dance party!
- Travel vicariously with loved ones. Ask members to virtually bring their mothers, daughters, aunts, grans, or anyone they choose to the meeting via FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, etc. Traveling vicariously means all are welcome aboard! Your visit to Mustique Island won’t just be a fictional escape, it will be a new family memory.
- Ask each book club member to bring a family recipe from the 1970s for a recipe swap and/or prepared dishes for a potluck. Go around the group sharing the history of each dish/recipe.
- Alternatively, members can pick a dish from the book to prepare and bring. Click here for exclusive Cook With The Book: Mustique Island Recipes.