M/V Islander: Resurrection by Kevin Parham, PRA Publishing, 2021, 186 pages, $15.95

Martha’s Vineyarders and long-time visitors will almost invariably have fond memories of the MV Islander, the redoubtable old vessel that for decades ferried hundreds of passengers and dozens of cars every trip from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven and back. The Islander was an un-cinematic workhorse, a host, however temporary, to countless happy passengers and a beloved workplace for captains and crew from 1950 to 2007.

Like any such workhorse vessel, the Islander became the hub of a great many stories, a humble shrubbery of local legends, and a whole generation of fond memories. When the vessel was decommissioned at long last in 2007 and replaced with a newer model, the Island Home, more than a few long-time passengers and crew considered it the end of an era — and as is natural in such circumstances, many of those people thought the era that followed was a lesser, even shabbier time.

That feeling animates the new novella by Kevin Parham, M/V Islander: Resurrection. The Island Home becomes the Island Gold in these pages, and Steamship Authority, which many an old hand considered the villain of the story, is transformed into the Commonwealth Ferryboat Company. But although some of the surface details are altered, the underlying feelings are unchanged and come through loud and clear.

“During the 45-minute trip, countless anecdotes were exchanged among passengers. Some stories evoked boisterous laughter, while others brought tears of melancholy,” readers are told as the beloved old ferry finishes its last run. “When the ferry had docked at Woods Hole, several people on board were reluctant to leave the vessel, for they knew this was the final farewell.”

But what happens next in the novel is only something that everybody wished for, not something that actually happened. After an interval, the beloved old ferry seems to reappear. Customers continue to be served by a cheerful, efficient crew; the old route is plied with the old reliability but without any of the tinny compromises of the Island Gold.

This is a source of consternation for the book’s main villains, the network of corrupt Massachusetts politicians and desperate, money-grubbing financiers from out of state who have orchestrated the decommissioning of the old Islander with the aim of profitable scrapping. That undercurrent of shady dealing is one of the book’s most gripping strands. These double-talking slick operators, each peddling the dirty secrets they know about each other, are immediately recognizable. Mr. Parham makes them so believably despicable that even a reader who’s never set foot on any incarnation of the Vineyard ferry will happily root against them.

The emotional payoff of M/V Islander: Resurrection feels sharply personal. The author’s most appreciative readers will be those who have walked the sticky decks of the dear old Islander and sat with a snack while that ungainly vessel brought them steadily to all the promises of their coming Island time. These readers will be grateful to Mr. Parham for giving the old Islander such an affectionate parable.