In this story of adventure and survival from the New York Times bestselling author of Room, three men vow to leave the world behind them as they set out in a small boat for an island their leader has seen in a dream, with only faith to guide them.
Throughout the novel Donoghue provides detailed descriptions of the natural world and the world of work: how vellum and quills are made, how an altar, a cross, a hut is built, how Cormac makes compost and grows a tiny garden, how Trian baits his line and fishes, how birds are caught and cleaned and cooked...It’s clear that Donoghue did her research and these passages will be of great interest to those who love this type of historical detail...Reading about the birds and dolphins in huge crowds, the great Auks (long extinct), and the contrast between Tristan’s regret and the Prior’s arrogance, I saw a distinct symbol of our broader arrogance in the destruction of our natural environment...This is a powerful read with careful attention paid to balancing natural and historical detail with a broader exploration of faith, madness, survival, and what it means to be human.
... very few readers have been praying for a novel like this. But Haven creates an eerie, meditative atmosphere that should resonate with anyone willing to think deeply about the blessings and costs of devoting one’s life to a transcendent cause ... The drama of this novel accumulates slowly, like the fresh water in their cistern. The challenges — what to eat, where to sleep — are exacerbated by Artt’s fanatical insistence that they immediately build a stone church and begin copying Bibles. The result is a story of survival trapped in a very small space, completely cut off from the world: Room with a view ... Donoghue works subtly in the margins, letting these three men evolve into their distinct roles. Their foolish destruction of the island’s resources will resonate with contemporary readers, but she refuses to reduce these characters to symbols of modern exigencies. Her narration stays close to their minds, which are about as free of sin as this story is of irony ... The effect is transporting, sometimes unsettling and eventually shocking. Trian’s affection for his companions, the birds, the island — everything — is so sweet and vulnerable that tragedy starts to haunt these pages like the coming winter ... My only substantial criticism of Haven sounds more harsh than I mean it to: This novel could have been a classic short story. Donoghue’s prose is too attentive to the craggy beauty of the island and the flutterings of Trian’s heart to suggest the book is padded. But the story’s tight focus; its single, steadily rising arc; and especially its walloping conclusion would have ensured a short-story version Haven the kind of immortality that Artt can only dream about.
Donoghue's characterizations of the three men, her vivid imagining of the measures they must take to survive, and her beautiful descriptions of the landscape and wildlife — puffins galore — make this book readable even for those who don't care much about medieval Christianity ... A strange turn of events having to do with Trian's secret brings the book to its climax. Donoghue is good at endings, as readers of Room know, and here again she metes out narrative justice with a firm hand.