ASHES IN A COCONUT by Bo  Kearns

ASHES IN A COCONUT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut novel, an American couple’s marriage becomes tested by a culture of corruption in 1980s Indonesia.

Jack Harrison is a handsome, self-made banker who worked hard to pull himself out of poverty in the South. His wife, Laura, is a compassionate redhead with a burgeoning career as a fashion designer in New York. She’s forced to leave her career behind when Jack’s boss offers to make him president of a bank in Jakarta. There, a sinking feeling haunts Laura when they move into the morbid home of the bank’s former president, who left in a hurry under mysterious circumstances. When Laura finds out that he departed because his wife committed suicide, she takes it as an ominous sign. Despite warnings that Jakarta is tough for rich expat wives, Laura tries to carve out a life for herself, getting involved in ecological activism, teaching children, and even attempting to start a small business. Jack, on the other hand, has a harder time adjusting. The bank he’s taken over is owed $1 million from a defaulted loan and a local judge refuses to help the institution’s legal proceedings without a bribe. As Jack tries to find more business for his bank, he realizes cutting corners is de rigueur in Indonesia. A particularly tempting offer comes from Johnny, the son of the president of Indonesia, whose charming demeanor masks shady rainforest lumber practices, among other things. With Jack hiding the complexities of the bank’s reality from Laura, a rift opens in their marriage. In this intricate tale, Kearns is skilled at building the stakes, but his treatment of local characters leaves much to be desired. The Asian women Jack meets are frequently described in exotified terms (“In the soft light from above, her dark hair shone like the luster of black satin”). “The husbands here go gaga over Asian women,” one expat wife says to Laura—a warning that echoes throughout the novel. But as Jack and Laura’s marriage slowly unravels, a taut plot thread that threatens his livelihood deftly comes into focus, pushing the heroine to the edge and turning the book into an intriguing page-turner.

An armchair tour of complex Indonesian issues, incorporated in a readable thriller.

Pub Date: May 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-945181-50-4
Page count: 270pp
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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