Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cross Currents

Cross CurrentsCross Currents, by John Shors

In March 1987, my friend Debbie and I spent a few days--not long enough--on an unspoiled Thai island, Koh Samet. The visit was arranged by Debbie's friend, Noi, who worked for Finn Air and whose Bangkok family was very protective of us. Even though Debbie and I were intrepid travelers by this point, they didn't want us traveling on our our time on this island was wonderful because we were on our own, and it was absolutely of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. It was so relaxing--all we did all day was laze around reading, writing, swimming, and taking walks. And eating amazing seafood.The owners didn't seem to speak much English, and we had to let them know when we wanted to eat by using sign language.

Me on Koh Samet
The memory of our time on that pristine island, where we had a bungalow on the beach and ate our meals in front of the ocean, was ever present as I read this book, set on another unspoilt Thai island, Ko Phi Phi. It's the story of an American, Patch, who is working for Lek and Sarai, owners of a very small resort (which sounds similar to the one where we stayed).

Patch develops a strong friendship with Lek and Sarai's children and becomes part of their family. But Patch's stay continues longer than any other American...and they realize that he is on the run from the law. Soon Patch's brother Ryan and his girlfriend Brooke arrive to help him, but there's trouble in paradise. Brooke and Ryan's relationship is in trouble, and she realizes she is attracted to Patch.

The climax of the story is the December 2004 tsunami, which sweeps everyone into crisis. It's the second book I've read in the past year about the tsunami; the other one was the heart-breaking memoir Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Another photo of Koh Samet (me, age 22)
It's a terribly bittersweet novel, and it moved me at the end. I don't think it's Shors' strongest novel--my two favorites were his first ones, Beneath a Marble Sky and Beside a Burning Sea. At times I tired of the descriptions about everyone's clothing and a bit too much "telling" rather than "showing." At other times the story dragged on, with slow plot development. On the other hand, I liked the way he described the lives of the Thais who lived on the island, the rich family life of Lek and Sarai, the tenuous relationship between the foreigners and the Thais, and the relationship between the brothers--strained but loving.

And most of all, I enjoyed this book because it made me think of that lovely Thai beach...and saddened me to think of what happened to all those people who lost their lives or loved ones in the great wave.

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