by Diego Kent ‧ RELEASE DATE: today
In this debut novel, a world traveler visits an island off the U.S. coast and mingles in good—as well as dangerous—company.
Globe-trotting Judah Goodwin’s latest destination is the United States. But the ship he’s on drops him off at, as the helmsman puts it, “Almost America”—the small island Rio Los Angeles sitting somewhere between Nova Scotia and Maine. Judah, a kind, capable man, quickly befriends the islanders, especially when he helps prevent a house from tipping and sliding into the ocean. Rio Los Angeles has a rich history, as some families have lived there for generations. This includes the Mirandas and the Eldridges, who share a bit of bad blood stemming from a fatal car accident more than a decade ago. Judah grows close to local sheriff Lee Miranda and even joins her profitable “quahog project.” Many islanders band together to harvest these quahogs, large clams that will spruce up anyone’s clam chowder. Sadly, not everyone on the island is neighborly, as three strangers make their way there and seem dead set on ransacking underwater quahog pens. These abrasive men also prove violent toward locals, forcing Lee and others to track them down as swiftly as possible. Meanwhile, Judah learns the ship that left him at the island has sunk with apparently no survivors. This news sparks his memories of the captain, who not only was up to no good, but may have used him as an unwitting courier for looted goods. It’s not long before a menacing individual comes looking for whatever Judah has.
Kent’s leisurely paced story devotes pages to work on the island. Characters, for example, discuss the quahog project and a later plan to harvest sea salt. Other scenes describe the laborious process of digging, packaging, and hauling clams. Many of the details, however, give the narrative color, including the stories that Judah and the islanders trade. He tells of his global travels, from the daily catches of fishing communities in Tanzania, East Africa, to a vault for storing seeds of worldly food crops on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. This is moreover indicative of the author’s sharp prose. Scenes at sea are particularly strong, even with minimal context for readers unfamiliar with nautical terminology: “They rafted the skiff to the Lydia. There was a mismatch in height and there were swells in the current. But foam rubber fenders hanging from Lydia’s gunwale cushioned a rhythmic bumping of the vessels.” While there’s little in the way of individual character development, certain moments pack a punch; a woman endures and recovers from a vicious assault, and more than one islander dies, deaths that unquestionably affect the community. At the same time, potential romance between Judah and Lee is sublimely understated; she calls him Chesapeake (a nod to Judah’s home), an endearing name that only Lee uses. Most of the Rio Los Angeles locals, too, are accommodating; Judah fits in so well with the rest of the cast that one may think the world traveler is not merely visiting but there to stay.
A measured but engrossing tale of a tightknit community’s strength.
Pub Date: today
Page Count: 383
Publisher: Luminare Press
Review Posted Online: May 27, 2022
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