The Wonder That Was Ours

Alice Hatcher. Dzanc (PGW, dist.), $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-945814-60-0
Hatcher’s debut, set on the small fictional Caribbean island of St. Anne, offers an inventive depiction of colonialism and chaos that ultimately suffers from an overstuffed presentation. A hive mind of cockroaches narrates and follows four characters: Wynston Cleave, a taxi driver and hotel barman; his young hotel coworker, Tremor; and Americans Dave and Helen, in St. Anne after they’re both kicked off a visiting cruise ship, the Celeste. Shortly after Cleave delivers Dave and Helen to the island’s Ambassador Hotel, where they hope to book a flight back to the U.S., an unknown sickness strikes the Celeste, killing several aboard, and the ship stalls off St. Anne’s coast. In short order, island police fire on the ship to keep passengers from coming ashore, St. Anne is placed under quarantine, and uneasiness on land turns to violence; rioters, fearing infection by “the American disease,” burn homes and bodies washed ashore from the cruise ship. When a photograph of Tremor, posed with charred remains, goes viral, the world’s spotlight focuses on St. Anne. In the mounting chaos, Dave and Helen, still on the island, turn to Wynston to guide them to a safe haven, and as the cockroaches provide commentary on island life and history, Wynston watches as the only world he knows crumbles. Hatcher’s story features incisive ideas and commentary, suggesting Caribbean tourism as modern colonization, where powerful foreign resorts dictate island politics. Nevertheless, the story sags and loses some momentum in its second half. The novel is a fascinating if uneven ride. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/30/2018
Release date: 09/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
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