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Retro Reading: Adrift on St. John by Rebecca M. Hale

Updated on May 13, 2022
Just float on by this mystery
Just float on by this mystery

Island Paradises Are Just An Illusion

I've never been a fan of pure narrative writing since a) I find my mind wandering and b) I'd rather let my imagination take over instead of being told that a comb is placed three inches left of a vase full of roses.

While the latter isn't true in Adrift on St. John by Rebecca M. Hale, I did find my mind wandering but the funny thing is reading this book was like gawking at an accident. I couldn't put it down and after reading the last sentence, I guess I did find it rather haunting. Maybe that was a good thing?

The story revolves around Penelope "Pen" Hoffstra, an alcoholic resort manager who has been on the island of St. John for the last four years. Pen spends most of her time drinking shots of rum all day while her capable assistant, Vivian runs the place. They seem to have a love/hate relationship with the rum vying for Pen's affection.

When energetic Hannah Sheridan comes to the island for a job, Pen's world is thrown off by the young woman. She doesn't take to her and can't figure out what the young woman's purpose is at the resort. The only thing she knows about Hannah is that her uncle sent her.

As the island is getting ready for the beginning of the busy tourist season, the island is also gearing up for the celebration of the 1733 Slave Revolt and is in turmoil over the political wording of who is a true island native. The islanders are also in awe of the sightings of the Amina Slave Princess who is rumored to haunt the island.

While Hale starts the book off with the sinking of a water taxi, I felt the rest of the story went down with it. I'm not saying that the plot wasn't intriguing, but the story was long and drawn out.

There were so many subplots, characters and history lessons I felt like I was channeling Pen's drinking. Maybe if I had been drinking I could have gotten into the story.

Hale does do a great job at the narrative but keeps switching in the style of writing. From first to third person (even to the reptile's point of view) I found myself confused as to what was going on. Had one form of writing been used, I think I would have found the story much more intriguing.

However, I think the story found itself in the wrong medium. A story of this magnitude could work as a screenplay (with a few changes) and the ending just left me saying, "Huh?"


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