Reviewer Karen Dahood : Karen lives in Tucson, AZ. After 35 years as a writer for businesses and nonprofits, she has turned to writing mysteries,the subtext of which addresses ageism, unpreparedness for aging, and America's wealth of experience and wisdom. Learn more about eldersleuth Sophie George at the Website Moxie Cosmos; Making Sense of Life Through Writing.
Author: Geraldine Solon
Young adults searching for resolutions to questions about their lives convene on Boracay, an island in the Philippines that is slowly being overtaken by tourists and foreign investors. Lacy, recent recipient of a kidney transplant, is driven to the island by a frightening dream of a fireball, treacherous ocean, and a child she feels it is her duty to save. “Sam”, one of just 40 native Aeta people left on the island, is grieving the loss of her mother who left the island for the United States and was then murdered. Handsome Kyle is there seeking good photo ops. Troubled Adam, a developer, is there to look for land and someone, perhaps himself. Alejandro, another native and Sam’s childhood friend, sees that she is not in love with him and enters seminary. Into this comes Frankie, a disturbed woman, angry because she feels abandoned by her husband. Their stories unfold rapidly as the question of tourist development arises, with Sam hoping her father will save their land for her to create a spa sometime in the future, when she has funds. Meanwhile, she is giving resort guests wonderful massages. All of this plays out in a beautiful, relaxing place whose signature is the sampaguita flower blossom, in alternating brief scenes over 35 easy-to-read, short chapters.
This novel leaves me quite convinced that the author will become a successful writer for TV and films with her exciting love stories tumbling out one after another just barely ahead of colorful disaster. I have not read any of her previous novels, and would not have thought of doing so -- I’m not a fiction snob, but must make hard choices at age 75 -- until I was asked (perhaps challenged) by Ms. Solon’s publicist to write a review after I reviewed her nonfiction book about how to be a successful self-publisher. I admitted to appreciating her drive, intelligence, and intentions. This novel has allowed me to judge her talent.
What it takes to write a memorable and laudable novel is not the same as what it takes to make “a good read,” which is Solon’s specialty. I was an English major, but I come from a place where, at age 25, my friends and I almost all watched “As the World Turns” and other soaps. Young mothers were bored in those days, having no careers and no encouragement to be anything other than good wives. Solon’s oeuvre probably fulfills the same need in today’s young women for something “other,” even though they are more likely working to meet the bills. Women are stressed out, maybe disappointed and wishing for alternative lives. Solon’s heroines have doubts, but they are genuinely about loving, dreaming, changing heart, asking forgiveness, and giving -- all the things that matter. Any excitement in the plot is icing on the cake, what makes us read faster.
Solon upped the ante by adding cultural interest with the island setting, and psychological or spiritual nourishment with ideas from religion, psychic ability, and dreams. Her characters are deep enough to take seriously, although the two-year-old seems a trifle precocious. My only serious complaints could be addressed with a first reader’s closer attention. I spotted typing mistakes, and descriptions that were silly, confusing, or just “off.” Many love scenes and playfully erotic thoughts intrude on tension in the drama. And the main characters are too attractive. A good editor could improve the quality considerably.
I hope this storyteller continues her transition into films where she will have more help. As I understand it, she is producing her own films now, just as she is publishing her own books. It will be interesting to see what happens to her career. She’s an attention getter, that’s for sure