Years of hard work are about to pay off for Richard and Ann. Richard is a chef who’s just weeks away from opening his own restaurant in Los Angeles with his business partner, Javi, a hotshot chef with a flair for culinary experimentation. Ann is also on the brink of professional success. She’s a cutthroat lawyer at a big firm and thinks the time has finally arrived for her to make partner. For years, she’s put in long hours and tried to succeed not only to rise through the ranks of the firm, but to support her husband as he paid his dues. It’s taken a personal toll — she doesn’t even like being a lawyer — but both of them know that the restaurant will give them a new type of freedom.
Overnight, thanks to Javi’s unscrupulous actions, their dream crumbles and they find themselves flying to an island in the middle of the South Pacific to get away from all their troubles. They wind up on a remote atoll run by Loren, a drunken Frenchman. For a couple thousand a day, they get an upgraded Robinson Crusoe experience: a small private hut with no electricity, phone, or internet connection. The only other people of significance on the island are Titi and Cooked, two locals who are betrothed to one another and run the daily operations; Dex Cooper, the aging frontman of the rock band Prospero; and Wende, Dex’s young and attractive muse.
Everyone there — save for Titi, who descends from Tahitian royalty and has a solid reason for staying — is trying to run away from something. Richard and Ann, of course, have literally run away from their problems in LA. Cooked is a native of the area, but colonialism and the region’s history as a nuclear testing site weight heavily on his mind; he’s starting to feel pushed to extremes. Dex constantly worries that he’s a has-been who will never have another hit again, and Wende is starting to tire of her role as a glorified groupie. Loren, the island’s owner, has the most secrets of all; he came to the South Pacific years ago, running away from a troubled life in France, and never went back.
Each seeks isolation and that unnameable something — they’ve traveled halfway across the world to a beautiful island in order to find meaning in their chaos — but it never seems to be enough. The lack of electricity and WiFi in a hyperconnected world also brings to mind that old saying: If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Switch “no one” out with social networks and other types of twenty-first century technology, and you’ll have an idea of the additional philosophical layer that the book dabbles with.
In the second half, the book takes a ridiculously over-the-top turn, but I actually didn’t mind this because I felt it added levity and kept the book moving along at a brisk pace. With its island setting and balance of humor and drama, I think it makes for a good vacation read.
The Last Good Paradise was released today by St. Martin’s Press. The book is on tour right now, so see what other bloggers are saying about it.