Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Greenest Island

Today I'm linking up with Jessica for What We're Reading Wednesday. I've had quite a lot of duds in the book department lately, mainly because our local library doesn't have a huge selection and I go in blind, randomly grabbing things that look interesting.  Like this book, for example. I couldn't get past the first few chapters before I skipped to the end, where all of my worst suspicions were confirmed. So what am I saying? The plot was both repulsive (to me) and at the same time predictable. I should have known from the title. However, Laura has given me hope, and I plan to request some of the books she recommends.

Anyway, I don't have much time to pound out a post today, so I had better get to the point. Last night I read Paul Theroux's The Greenest Island in the bathtub. It's that quick. It's the story of a very young couple that steals away to Puerto Rico to hide an unplanned pregnancy. The plot plays out over the course of a suffocatingly hot summer in the early 1960's.

It was my first contact with Theroux's writing, and I liked his style. It was clear, and he simply articulates thoughts that I have found my own mind dancing around. For example, at one point the young protagonist is forced to put aside his dream to write and take a job at a local hotel. Theroux writes,
The money was enough to live on, not enough to free him. So the salary trapped him more completely than the fear of poverty had. The job became central, the only important thing; and his ambitions became local: to take a publico rather than a bus, to eat in a good restaurant rather than La Gloria, to drink rum instead of beer (my emphasis).
I get the feeling that Theroux was writing from a place of experience - a quick look at his bio reveals that he had a child which he gave up for adoption when he was in college. But how many of us have also experienced this reality? The friction between dreams and needs, fear and security, comfort and freedom. So what's the solution? Theroux doesn't really get there in this short story, and I don't think it's an easy one. Maybe the most important thing is to be reminded that the friction exists.


  1. I have not read a short story in far too long. It takes an immense talent to write a good short story. I'll have to look for this one. Bonus: I've been saving a pack of bath salts for just such an occasion!

  2. I'd say in acceptance (of our particular situation) we can find freedom. Easier said than done....


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