This is an adventure, and a history-and-mystery, and two road trips. It is also about journeys of the heart and spirit, and about choices made and lived with. Red Adept published it in July of this year. All credit to them for spotting its worth. They have something quite unusual on their hands. I have no hesitation in recommending it heartily to you.
Fundamentally this is a story about two road trips. One heading north to the USA from Belize in 1949: the other heading south to Belize from the USA in 2019.
Road trips can be fruitful vehicles for novels. There is always something to see out of the window. Winters Schwartz is very good at helping us see the sights as we move along. She is also very good at ruminations on what it is like to leave a village without electricity in Belize and move up through the gears, from dirt roads to paved highways, through towns, an illegal logging camp, and cities to eventually arrive at what in 1949 was the pinnacle of civilisation: the United States. In the second strand the journey is, of course, reversed, and the 2019 characters (Colin and Luci) find their ‘civilised’ preoccupations stripped away one by one as they move south into a smaller, slower world.
At the beginning I did have a few moments of ‘are we there yet’ with what seemed like a lot of backstory. But I can counsel those who give this book a whirl – it all comes good. It is, actually, all plot. Relax and enjoy it. Winters Schwartz is oh so good at holding back essential information until one is almost at Kindle-flying-across-the-room point and then divulging. At which point the reader gives a sigh of satisfaction and plunges on. In this way the story becomes incrementally more rewarding, on both its journeys.
Ernesto and Parchue are the 1949 characters, leaving home in search of adventure, as young men will. And what adventures they find! Winters Schwartz finds perilous points at which to leave them and return to the 2019 strand which leaves the engaged reader truly fearful of what she will find when she returns to see how they’re getting on.
In the modern strand the tensions between Colin and Luci are of a different kind as they journey south. Their relationship is founded on a lie. They believe they have nothing in common. They are cooped up, cheek by jowl, day after day in … without a horrid spoiler I can only tell you that it is an unusual form of transport.
This is a thoughtful story of what may happen when you go adventuring: the aftermath, the way it changes you, what it does to family, how you relate to the friends you make along the way. It is also fascinating about Central America, an area the author knows well and has obviously researched carefully with people who remember 1949.