In Rycus’ (The Soil Is Dead, 2012, etc.) novel, a dying man receives an unexpected gift while vacationing in Bali.
After a brief prologue in which saintly Father Pavlos of Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Ypsilanti, Mich., confesses his need to relate a remarkable story, that story begins with young engineer Joey Gilbert’s doctor bluntly telling him, “You’ve got incurable cancer.” Gilbert is stunned; he and his wife, Gabriella, had been planning their second honeymoon, this time off the beaten track in Bali, and now everything has changed. But the doctor suggests they go through with their vacation, and he recommends an old doctor-colleague of his as a contact person in Bali. That colleague, Dr. Setiawan, is sympathetic to Gilbert’s tragedy and gives him some specially made tea that immediately soothes him. Setiawan gives him a small supply of tea leaves to take back with him to the States, where customs inspectors at the Detroit airport confiscate the tea leaves as suspicious contraband. The confiscation hardly matters to Gilbert; he’s too elated at learning that his cancer has entirely disappeared. Meanwhile, customs agent Konstantinos “Connie” Sarbanes, who’s brought home some of the mysterious remedy, smokes it hoping that it’ll ease the irritation of his newly diagnosed glaucoma—but it cures it instead. Likewise, Nando Garcia, a janitor at the Detroit airport, wonders if using some of the leaves he brought home from work might ease the symptoms of his daughter’s muscular dystrophy—and they eliminate her disease entirely. When temperamental Ypsilanti police officer Mitch Foley visits the bedside of his partner who’s been shot in the chest, the gravely wounded cop jokingly sprinkles some of the ground-up plant on his chest, and he makes a full and speedy recovery. After coming in contact with the leaves, even Foley’s chronic anger issues resolve themselves. Father Pavlos keeps a record of these and other seeming miracles in his “T file,” and as Rycus’ completely winning narrative works to its climax, possible deeper significances of the wonders wrought by the unusual cure are explored. In vignette after vignette, Rycus expertly animates his characters.
A fascinating tale of how chance interconnects the lives of a handful of strangers.