Monday, May 25, 2009

98 (2009 #23). Every Boat Turns South

by J. P. White

I received an advance copy of this yet-to-be-published book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. It's the tale of 30-year-old Matt Younger, who has returned to his parents' home in Florida after an adventure in the Caribbean, just in time to tell his dying father his story.

The main tale, of Matt's harrowing adventures at sea and in the Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic, was intriguing. Some of the plot twists caught me by surprise. The secondary family-trouble tale, with his father's slow death as background, was not so interesting, but became important as it tied to the main tale by the end with an interesting twist.

I had two problems with this book. First-time author J. P. White writes lovely prose; his background as a poet is evident with his copious use of similes and metaphors. I've been sailing and to the Caribbean, and his writing made me feel I was there again. At times, however, there is too much description, and it draws attention from the plot.

I also had difficulty with both narrative lines being told in first person present tense. I think it would have been easier to make the shifts between the plot threads if the sailing adventure story had been told in past tense, as befits telling a tale to one's dying father. Using past tense for the main story might also have allowed Matt to do a little more reflecting on his actions and develop his character a little more.

Every Boat Turns South is a good - but not great - first novel, enough to make me interested in reading a future work by J. P. White.

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