Everton Dorrill, a 37-year-old marketing executive in Jamaica, is about to make an important presentation when he learns his 67-year-old father, who has been out of his life for decades, has disappeared. From this elementary premise, Jamaican-
Canadian author Garfield Ellis takes readers on a dusty yet sensual Caribbean travelogue as the son takes a temporary leave from work to track down the father. Everton resents his father on many levels – primarily for not being there for him and his late mother when Everton was a child.
The father, a lifelong civil servant for the Ministry of Agriculture and unrepentant, peripatetic lothario, is suffering a crisis and has left Everton’s stepmother to meet up with the woman he loved 30 years before. As he pursues his father, Everton encounters Angela, a woman who hums with sexual energy and has him questioning his relationship with his girlfriend, Audrey.
In between some Indiana Jones–style close calls, a harrowing car crash, being shot at by marijuana growers, several bottles of pimento wine, and some steamy sex, Ellis’s novel puts one family under the microscope. Not surprisingly, what we see is messy, yet authentic. The dialogue, which is awkward and filled with good-natured braggadocio, also precludes real communication among the characters. Everton’s father is coy, incorrigible, and steeped in a casual chauvinism that repulses his son, even while Everton realizes he has inherited some of his father’s less-than-savoury characteristics.
The novel’s rendering of its female characters is concerning. When they are not performing expert sexual ministrations or cooking, the women in the book are barely present at all, except as otherworldly objects of beauty. Some might try to dismiss this as natural or immaterial in the context of a father-son road-trip novel, but the way the women are portrayed strongly relates to how the two lead characters behave. The shoddy way in which Everton and his father treat the women in their lives fuels their regrets and erratic behaviour, which ultimately threatens to ruin the lives of all involved.