Ever wanted to run away from the drone and drudgery of life? Run run run to a remote Polynesian island where no one knows your name, where the Internet does not reach, where the lapping of the waves coaxes you to sleep and the sunset is your screensaver.
Ann and Richard, she a cut-throat lawyer (insert joke here. Ann knows plenty herself and will recite them for you), he a gourmet chef about to open his own restaurant, head to the island. Partly out of necessity – Richard’s business partner Javi owes plenty of money and now Ann’s money (for let’s face it, she’s the one with the big bucks) is on the line too. They grab it first and head to paradise.
The story moves away from Ann and Richard and to the island’s other inhabitants. Loren, the owner, French, drunk, lonely. Titi and Cooked, the locals who work there, lovers, disgruntled. And two other guests, rock star Dex Cooper and his latest muse Wende (Wendy with an ‘e’).
They are a motley crew. And I loved how Soli gets into their back stories and draws them out. She creates this odd assortment of characters that would never meet in real life, pours their life stories out, nurtures them. It’s a story about being unplugged, no phones, no Internet, no checking your email for the 50th time that day. It’s funny how you never really get used to it, that there’s still that itch to connect to the rest of the world, find out what’s happening, even in paradise.
It’s an interesting idea, and these are such potentially great characters, and Soli is a good writer, but there was something that seemed to be missing from this story. I just never felt cocooned within the book, never quite completely absorbed into their lives.
It probably stemmed from my not being able to connect with the characters. That I never really felt drawn to any of them. And when the story moves towards activism – nuclear testing on the islands is an important issue of course, but it failed to make an impact on me, and instead the story seemed to lose its focus.
The Last Good Paradise has an stunning setting, some lovely writing, and plenty of sharks. Actual swimming in the sea sharks. It made me want to escape to an isolate beach and sit and read books, although I’m not quite sure about the not being able to check my email (and Instagram, and Facebook, The Guardian, The Straits Times, and far too many blogs etc etc etc).
TATJANA SOLI is a novelist and short story writer. Her New York Times bestselling debut novel, The Lotus Eaters, was the winner of the James Tait Black Prize, a New York Times Notable Book, and a finalist for the LA Times Book Award. Her critically acclaimed second novel The Forgetting Tree was also a New York Times Notable book . Her stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Boulevard, and The Sun, and have been listed in Best American Short Stories. She lives with her husband in Southern California.
I received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours