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Poet and novelist Svoboda (Cannibal, 1995) offers an oddly disjointed account of a young woman stranded on a tiny Pacific island recently contaminated by radioactive fallout. “All tourists think their island’s far, but this island’s really far.” So far off the beaten path, in fact, that our narrator Clare isn—t altogether sure that she—ll ever be able to find her way home again. An advertising copywriter, Clare accompanied a film crew to a remote Pacific Rim island in order to shoot a TV commercial. With a bit of time on her hands—just why a copywriter would be needed on a television shoot is a good question never addressed’she decides to travel here and there on her own, and ends up on an even more remote island with very irregular boat service and few amenities. Peace and quiet are fine by her, but in short order Clare gets her fill of solitude and pines to leave again. The boat she plans to take, however, shoves off early in a sudden hurry, and everyone turns vague and noncommittal when she asks about the next one. Another boat finally pulls in, but it’s flying the flag not of any country but of an international health organization. The passengers greet Clare, along with the others who are clambering aboard, with Geiger counters: there has been a nuclear test on a nearby island, and the fallout may have reached their apparent Eden. This comes as an unpleasant shock, of course, but even so, Clare’s reaction is rather extreme: she jumps overboard and swims back to the island. There, she resumes her life of ennui among the locals and expats. Why? Another good (and unanswered) question. Clare apparently finds some peace in her confinement, although she doesn—t succeed in communicating it—or anything else—especially well. Wonderfully written, though bafflingly obscure. Svoboda writes in a meditative style that seems incapable of containing a narrative, much less relating it.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-58243-001-2
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1999


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