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by Carolyn McGrath

Each summer Carolyn McGrath leaves her home and husband to live alone in her log cabin on a small island in Canada. Her only companions are two dogs, abundant wildlife, and the ghost of her father, who died and left the island to her when she was seventeen. During the summer of 2001, she challenges her husband’s claim that her need for solitude renders her strange, recounting stories of many women who have immersed themselves in isolation in order to explore the natural world. McGrath senses that she’s one person while alone on her island, and quite another out in the world. Her island self remains separate from the one who visits her dying mother in a nursing home. While she had always adored her father, taking from him her love for the lake and for the people who’ve made their lives there, she struggles to reconcile those feelings with the way he entered into this wilderness to kill the wild creatures with whom she shares her island home. This leads her to a humbling discovery.

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Meet the Author

Carolyn McGrath has a degree in classics from the University of Iowa and an MA in creative writing from Stony Brook University in New York where she taught for years in the Department of English and directed the Stony Brook $1000 Short Fiction Prize. She now lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, where, before the pandemic, she taught poetry and developmental English and formed a book club in a high security prison for women. In 2020 Canada closed the US-Canadian border, causing her to break her record of spending every summer of her life on her island on Bobs Lake.

Press Kit


Format: Paperback

Pages:  163

PB ISBN: 978-1-958754-33-7

Release Date: 7/24/2023


“What the noisy and perilous world needs now is Carolyn McGrath’s fervent paean to solitude. In Two Faces of the Moon, our companions are not only the author in her beloved wilderness, but the ghosts of the remarkable women who nurtured and protected it. Their stories, along with McGrath’s moving personal journey, give this memoir its distinct power and relevance.”

—Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men and artistic director of Boston’s creative writing non-profit GrubStreet


“Carolyn McGrath tells an unusual but compelling story of her life as the owner of a small island in a Canadian lake where one summer, helped by her surroundings of outstanding natural beauty, she looked at her complex relationship with her family and worked out who she was; and where now, the great spoiling tide of the 21 st century is fast approaching. Her memoir is a beautifully-written, passionate and lyrical testament to the worth of the natural world which is everywhere so threatened.”

—Michael McCarthy, author of The Moth Snowstorm – Nature and Joy


“Two Faces of the Moon is at once an intensely personal memoir and a resonant meditation on the complex relationships between children and parents, the role of humans in nature, and the precious pleasures of solitude. Throughout, Carolyn McGrath writes with a deep and loving sense of place that leaves one wishing for their own island refuge in the wilderness.”

—Andrea L. Smalley, author of Wild By Nature: North American Animals Confront Colonization and The Market in Birds: Commercial Hunting, Conservation, and the Origins of Wildlife Consumerism


“This absorbing book is a work of art, exploring natural beauty, solitude, and the mysteries of parental influence. I enjoyed it immensely.”

—Adele Glimm, author of Rachel Carson: Protecting our Earth and Gene Hunter: The Story of Neuropsychologist Nancy Wexler


“Virginia Woolf said a woman needed a room of her own. For Carolyn McGrath, the room is her own small island on a lake in Canada where she spends summers in close company with the local wildlife. In this moving and beautifully written book, she comes to terms with her feelings for her mother, dying in a nursing home nearby, and her long-deceased father, who had come to the island to kill wildlife. She also describes the lives of 19th century pioneers who forged a living in the backwoods surrounding the lake. In an Afterword, McGrath recounts the inevitable and threatening changes coming to this once remote and isolated Eden.”

—E.A.M. Jakab, author of Louis Pasteur: Hunting Killer Germs and The Halloween Party


“Beautifully remembered story of life at the author’s beloved island cottage. Of special interest to Bobs Lake residents, local history fans and anyone who cares deeply about the natural world.”

—Peri McQuay, author of  Singing Meadow: The Adventure of Creating a Country Home and A Wing in the Door: Life with a Red-Tailed Hawk

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