In this short-fiction collection, Simmonds (From Siberia to St. Kitts, 2018) explores the lives of people and animals on islands in the Caribbean and New England.
In “Jeremy,” a dog recounts the time that his master and his family got their boat stuck beneath Brooklyn’s Marine Parkway Bridge. A middle school administrator in “Backyard Overture,” vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard, witnesses an array of creatures visiting his yard. In “Caribbean Vacation,” a man invites his wife on a trip from New York City to St. Kitts only to have her insist on bringing her very elderly and mostly immobile parents along. An assistant principal attempts to dissuade a foulmouthed teen from cursing in class in “Peter’s Performance.” In these short stories, Simmonds examines small moments that frequently involve family dynamics or wildlife. Some are realistic while others have a more fabulist quality—as if the author is attempting to pause the world, remove its casing, and see the machinations whirling beneath its surface. In the title story, for example, a man named Paul builds his dream house in an area of St. Kitts called Valley Views, complete with an Edenlike orchard of tropical fruit, only to find himself engaged in a war of wits with the local vervet monkey population. The volume is fewer than 100 pages long, but its stories’ settings manage to cover many different times and places. The author’s warm prose is speckled with moments of humor, as when he describes one of the vervet monkeys: “Ticky could be seen peeking into the house through the rear windows overlooking the orchard, casing the joint perhaps, an advance reconnaissance special forces raider gathering intel for a grand monkey plot.” The stories are simple and straightforward; indeed, most lack a clear plot turn or epiphany, which one may expect from works of short fiction. Some read more like memoiristic vignettes or amusing, spoken anecdotes, and Simmonds’ pleasant voice and interest in nature and travel make for a calming reading experience.
A brief compilation of light, good-natured tales.