Romesh Gunesekera, Author, Fomesh Gunesekera, Author . Grove $24 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1735-9

Set on an environmentally devastated tropical island that resembles his native Sri Lanka, Gunesekera's new novel follows a Londoner named Marc, who comes to the island to find his father but instead gets caught up in a passionate affair with an ecological activist. When he arrives at the country's only hotel, the run-down Palm Beach Inn, Marc encounters a scarred landscape nothing like the idyllic pictures painted by his grandfather Eldon, a native who moved to London in his youth. Marc's attempts to find his father, who disappeared here when Marc was a child, come to naught, but his lover, Uva, opens new doors as she teaches Marc about her efforts to continue farming against the wishes of the island's repressive regime. Government troops begin tracking Uva, and soon soldiers attack and destroy Uva's farm. Marc is imprisoned in a government compound but manages to escape. Once he tracks down Uva's erotically preoccupied bisexual friend, Jaz, and a metalworker named Kris who has pivotal ties to Uva's past, the three embark on a quest to find Uva. The search has moments of both breathtaking suspense—e.g., the trio rebuilds a damaged plane to escape pursuing soldiers—and quiet introspection, as Marc reflects on his ambivalence toward this land. The novel's structure is a bit clichéd, but there's a spark in Gunesekera's writing that gives his characters life; the affair between Marc and Una is especially rich and subtle. Gunesekera has explored these cultures and themes in his earlier books, notably Reef, which was shortlisted for the Booker, but the compelling romance makes this one of his best efforts. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 01/27/2003
Release date: 02/01/2003
Hardcover - 234 pages - 978-0-7475-5914-6
Hardcover - 234 pages - 978-0-7475-5813-2
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-7475-6143-9
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-8021-4145-3
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