“”The thing about the past,” Johnathan’s father said, “is that it is what it is. The past will never change. That’s what keeps it alive. The present dies. The future ain’t born yet. The past stays as it is, always.””
Author: Joe English Published: 2017 Pages: 518
A Place Called Schugara is an interesting novel which follows the journey of three people, Travers, Albert, and Joe who work as a businessman, insurance investigator, and bookseller respectively. They lead different lives but all of them are dealing with issues and dilemmas in their lives, and each of their journeys interconnect somehow. By the end of the novel they all eventually arrive on an island called Mabouhey in an attempt to save themselves from whatever haunts them. While they all had their individual reasons for going to the island in the first place, each of them discover things they weren’t expecting there and are somehow enlightened because of it.
I did love how each of the three protagonists were strikingly different from each other and yet, they all somehow melded together quite nicely. I think Travers was probably my favourite, just because of his interactions with other people, they were humorous and plausible and therefore relatable. It did take a little getting used to all the switching of perspective, but I think the same goes for any multi-perspective novel.
There is no doubt that English is an accomplished writer; I think, for me, I enjoyed the little touches, such as the way he wrote dialogue in different vernaculars depending on who was talking. It reminded me of Huckleberry Finn or The Help in that sense. I also like the way that while the novel seemed to just glide through each of the lives, English successfully touched on many deeper issues, such as scandals of the church and racism, throughout, and he wasn’t afraid to use his characters to say something subtly profound (such as the quote above).
I think my main issue was just how long this novel was. As I was turning the pages, I couldn’t help but think how much I still had left to read, which is not really something you want to be thinking while you’re reading a book. I understand why it was as long as it was, but for me, by the end, I had lost interest in the storyline. I personally only tend to enjoy long books if they are fantasies or thrillers because they are setting up a new world, or keeping me hooked on every page.
English can write well, his characters were interesting and complex, and his storylines were relatable and humorous, but there was just something missing. I think there was probably too much going on, too many storylines and characters to keep track of everything. But I will say that he managed to create some unique characters while also peppering profound and interesting thoughts throughout the narrative, which overall made for an enjoyable read.
Thank you to the author, Joe English, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.