Who hasn't wanted to get away from it all? To chuck job and responsibilities and escape to paradise? Ann and Richard are completely consumed by the stress of their lives. Ann is a cutthroat junior attorney in the midst of fertility problems. Her husband Richard is a chef in the final stages of opening the decades-long wished for restaurant of his own with his best friend and fellow chef, Javi. In the midst that is, until it comes out that Javi owes money to loan sharks and his ex is going after his assets, including the restaurant, claiming he hid money from her. The problem is that the money is actually all Ann and Richard's but that won't change anything. So Ann does something shockingly unethical. She withdraws all the money in their account and she and Richard run away to a remote coral atoll in French Polynesia. They land at an exclusive and wildly expensive resort that is unplugged from technology and seemingly outside the rest of the world's reach. But they are not alone there. Also at the resort is Dex Cooper, an aging rock star; Wende, his nubile and scantily clad young muse; Loren, the French resort owner who is hiding from his own failures; Titi, the cook and caretaker; and Cooked, her fiancé, a would-be environmental activist and eco-terrorist and the resort's boatman.
Each of the people on the island has his or her own agenda, many of them running away from unpleasant realities. They are all their own personal islands when Ann and Richard first arrive but they slowly develop connections to each other, fueled first by raging undercurrents of lust and sexual awareness but eventually by understanding and caring. As each character works through the death of long held dreams, they face the uncertainty and difficulty of making changes and finding new directions, even when those changes will make them happier than their dreams once did. It is through the solitude and introspection of weeks at the resort that the characters really learn what they want from life, how to live it to their best ability, how to make a difference in the world, and how to move forward with their new, more fulfilling hopes and dreams.
Soli is very good at drawing complex and complete characters, doing a wonderful job with her large cast here. All of them are floundering, trying to find their ways, which they will only find in concert with each other. Their coming together as a united group is slow and organic in the first half of the novel, but still shows and celebrates their personal growth within the collective. The plot picks up speed in the second half of the story and the twists and turns to the end are both unexpected and perfectly true to the book. The narration shifts from each of the ensemble characters in turn, spinning through all of them, sometimes from paragraph to paragraph, giving necessary perspective into the growth of the whole. Like the secret webcam trained on a piece of deserted beach on the backside of the island that Loren has hooked up and Ann finds by accident, the story exudes peace and allure for the untouched tranquility of a hidden paradise, hidden from the world, hidden from one's personal view, hidden deep in the heart. None of us can ever truly unplug from the world and our fellow human beings no matter how far afield we go. The writing is smooth and as stunning as the paradise Soli has created. This novel will make you think about regrets, what truly makes a person happy, and what obligations we have to others as members of the same tribe and to the world as our collective home.
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Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.