Undercover goings-on at an exclusive Florida gated community.
One would imagine there’d be pretty much nothing happening on the happy little fictional isle of Eden, a haven just off the Florida coast for richer-than-Croesus types who want to live in a place that’s “like a Caribbean resort only without the poverty, dodgy politics and truculent natives”—and one would pretty much be right. But that doesn’t stop Mewshaw (Shelter From the Storm; Do I Owe You Something?: A Memoir of the Literary Life, both 2002) from trying to rustle something up. At the eye of the yuppified storm is Frank Pritchard, a retired CEO forced out of his company by some less-than-ethical types, whose loving wife died not so long ago. He spends his days talking with his friend, the Black Widow–like Randi Dickson, hanging out with his dead wife’s therapist (whom he likely has feelings for), and thinking about killing himself. His neighbor is Cal Barlow, a wheelchair-bound loner who plays around with his pistol when he thinks nobody is watching. Frank and Cal strike up a friendship, the two becoming interested romantically in Randi at about the same time, and, all the while, Cal’s secret identity, that of a drug dealer in the Witness Protection Program, is about to blow up in his face. The story noodles along at first, content with the easygoing rhythms of Cal and Frank’s friendship, the sunny idleness of Eden’s vacuous luxury, and its residents’ ill-hidden fear of the outside world and, indeed, reality. But when Frank decides to stir things up a bit by going on an ill-advised graffiti campaign around the island, unwanted attention is the result—and things decline from there. Mewshaw has an easier way with his story this time, his tenth outing, than in his last: little here feels forced, and the context is so powerfully evoked it overwhelms what little plot there is.
Enjoyably dozy and slight, like a long afternoon in the south Florida sun.