miami university


The Guide to the Flying Island


Lee Upton

2009. 978-1-60743-571-6

Off the coast of the small town of Truror is an island steeped in local legend, a place once home to mysterious religious orders and apocryphal lost settlements…a place that seems, in the right fog, to lift right out of the water and fly. This peculiar past has made the island, in the present, a minor tourist attraction, drawing sightseers and the devout alike.

On an otherwise routine tour, Jake Isinglass, a native son of Truror and guide to the island, witnesses something he can’t explain: a young woman falls from an island cliff to her death…or jumps to her death…or vanishes into thin air. What follows in Jake’s investigation finds him uncovering not just the island’s difficult history but his own.

Written in evocative, atmospheric prose, The Guide to the Flying Island is at once a ghost story, a mystery, and a meditation on the ways our lives remain haunted by the secrets of our pasts.

“Lee Upton has long been one of my favorite poets and now, with The Guide to the Flying Island, she’s become one of my favorite fiction writers, too. This is a beautifully written, one-of-a-kind book, a spooky, lovely novella about tour guides and missing nuns and monks, a wry and deeply felt story of love and obsession (if there’s a difference). I couldn’t put it down, and once I’d finished it, I couldn’t wait to read it again.”

—Brock Clarke, author of An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England and Carrying the Torch

“Lee Upton’s The Guide to the Flying Island is a carefully nuanced enchantment which unfolds in the community around an isolated island chapel and on the threshold between the psychological and the metaphysical. As I watched Jake Isinglass attempt to unravel the mysteries of a missing nun and the loss of his mother, I was captivated by the mist-filled maritime setting and the enigmatic behavior of locals and pilgrims. Any fan of Picnic at Hanging Rock or The Magus will be spellbound by Upton’s deft prose and compelling characters.”

—R.T. Smith, author of Faith and Uke Rivers Delivers

Reviews & Such

Read the January 2010 review of The Guide to the Flying Island on Bookslut.

About the Author

Photo of Lee Upton

Lee Upton is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Undid in the Land of Undone, and four books of literary criticism. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the National Poetry Series Award, and awards from the Poetry Society of America. Her fiction has appeared in the Antioch Review, Epoch, Shenandoah, and other journals.