Covid Monologues MV: Readings to Nourish, Inspire & Connect, edited by Jennifer L. Knight & Moira Convey Silva, Sun Dog Books, 2021, 215 pgs., $12.95

Even by late April of 2020, when Massachusetts Covid cases and deaths were surging, it was still possible to think that Martha’s Vineyard would be spared. The number of positive test results on the Island was still in the single digits, and it was possible, just faintly possible, to hope that everything could be contained.

It was, of course, a fantasy. Soon the pandemic was blanketing the Vineyard just as it was blanketing the rest of the world. The sense of separate-ness that has made the Island a special place for so many people over many generations had been violated — masks and testing facilities and overworked hospitals come even to Islands in time.

That was when Covid Monologues was born. Moira Convey Silva and Jennifer L. Knight set about the herculean task of prompting, gathering and curating a wide selection of written responses to the pandemic, drawn from people all over the Island and taking many forms, from actual monologues to personal essays to poetry.

Covid Monologues MV: Readings to Nourish, Inspire & Connect is the result, an irreplaceable volume documenting the many ways Vineyard people responded to the pandemic.

The book is arranged in the four parts to this drama that all of us living through this time know so well: “Sheltering in Place – Spring 2020,” “Settling into Pandemic Life – Summer/Fall 2020,” “Frozen in Place – Winter/Spring 2021,” and, maybe buoyed a little by new vaccines and new treatments, “Looking Ahead – Summer/Fall 2021.”

The various pieces collected here will bring back a great many memories of how the pandemic was experienced by all, from the first grainy video stills from China of fully-clothed shoppers passed out on sidewalks to the slow, seeping dread of watching the news and realizing with cold clarity, this will eventually reach me.

The year 2020 wasn’t very old before the shape of things for the Vineyard was certain. The pandemic would indeed come even to what Covid Monologues MV contributor Janie Flanders calls “the small haven I call home.”

Gradually, a new world co-opted the old one. Islanders learned the terms that were then entering the national and international discourse. As Elissa Lash writes in this volume, “How odd this new word – pandemic – so dramatic and medical and science fiction sounding – was now part of her regular vocabulary.”

Mask wearing, social distancing, survivalist shopping, shifting most communal activities to online, all meetings and even family chats to Zoom for the foreseeable future — all these things became the new normal, and that included the steady background hum of worry for distant friends, as Lynn Ditchfield captures in her Ruminations from a COVID-19 Love Letter: “Concern for friends on the 15th floor in NYC; family in Barcelona with young children sequestered in tiny spaces; a dear one who died from this virus alone in a hospital bed ...”

But somehow, it wasn’t all doom. All over the world, while Covid was killing people, it was also showing us the good people in our midst, the helpers, the sustainers, working long days on all kinds of front lines in order to safeguard the rest of us. And the pandemic also showed us some strengths of our own that we didn’t know we had, a stubborn resilience knitting us all together.

Emily Cavanagh’s winning piece Covid Babies wonderfully paints such a picture: “These were the same days when we were trading sourdough recipes and trying out new cocktails, when the only grounding factor of the day was planning dinner and pouring a drink when it was finally late enough not to feel guilty about it.” Although even here, Ms. Cavanagh can’t avoid the counterpoint, in the very next line: “We were frightened, of course ...”

Covid Monologues concluding section looks to a future that might contain some hope, sending its readers away on a cautiously upbeat note. And much of that can be found in the book’s central message: We can get through anything, if we help each other.

This volume belongs on the shelf of every Island survivor.

There will be a book release party for Covid Monologues MV on Saturday, Jan. 29 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the West Tisbury Library.