Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!
Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Lloyd Saunders' grandfather had gone to fish off of Pedro Bank, and hadn't returned. He'd called the family from his cell phone on Tuesday, and should have been back on Thursday, but he hadn't come, and none of the other fishermen, his friends, knew what had happened. Some of them said, "Wait a few days; he'll be along," but others avoided his grandson Lloyd's eyes. Maas Conrad Saunders is a good man, and a good deepwater fisherman, but he's one of the last of a dwindling breed. Other fishermen cast their nets near where the sewage pipes empty into the sea; others use chlorine or dynamite to kill fish and bring them to the surface for an easy catch -- but Lloyd's grandfather is not one of those men. Still, something had driven his grandfather out to fish in unfamiliar seas - but Lloyd doesn't know what. All he knows is that he misses the old man, misses being out on the boat, doing the simple things fisherman do to bring in fish for his mother to sell, misses his grandfather showing him the ropes, telling him stories about dolphin and how wise and beneficial they are. A man of few words, still his grandfather is Lloyd's whole heart and soul, the only one who speaks kindly to him, and if anyone is going to find him, Lloyd will be the one. Whether he has to sleep standing vigil at the seawall, hang around behind bars and scrounge in the trash, talk to every man with a boat in all of Grey Pond, stow away about a Coast Guard cutter, meet with gangsters, and talk to dolphin scientists, Lloyd is going to find his grandfather -- even if no one helps him. Even if no one believes him.
Observations: This book has been published in the Caribbean, and readers may be unable to easily find it in the States, but I believe that with our help, the cream rises - because we lift it up. I found this book to be extraordinarily well written, and I want to urge those who can find it to pick up and read this book so that it will find its way to a larger share of readers. There is no glossary in this book, but readers who can simply pull information from context will understand the cadences and the patois and words they don't understand easily enough. The author is from Kingston, and the Jamaican words seem in many ways to have been the only way the book could have been written; readers are in Lloyd's mind from the first.
This novel is held in perfect tension between memory and tragedy, between the beauty of the sea, and the wonders therein, and the draining deficit human beings, pollution, and overfishing have on the Caribbean. The close-knit, simple and joyful life Lloyd lives contrasts with the thin edge of subsistence living that fishing provides. Readers who enjoyed Theodore Taylor's THE CAY, or Nancy Farmer's A GIRL NAMED DISASTER will find in this novel another of the classic survival novels that are absolutely immersing, that certain kinds of young readers just love, as they ask themselves the questions of "what would I do?" and "could I survive?" This novel also has the coming-of-age feel of those novels; though Lloyd himself isn't the one to survive being marooned, he must survive the knowledge that there is treachery and betrayal in the world, that it is killing dolphins, poisoning the Caribbean, and has also done in human beings. This is the author's first novel for young adults, based on her 2012 Regional Commonwealth Writers prizewinning short story and originally entitled The Dolphin Catchers, and took second prize for CODE's Burt Award for Caribbean Literature in 2015, which recognizes outstanding literary works for young adults written by Caribbean authors.
Conclusion: This tightly plotted, tautly written narrative will engage your heart and your head - pull you in, and spit you back out with its enigmatic, terribly painful, yet fiercely hopeful conclusion.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of Papillote Press. After February 28, you can find GONE TO DRIFT by Diana McCauley at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent British or Caribbean bookstore; Americans can also find it at AmazonUK