Bottom Beach
E. Laurent
Outskirts Press (2009)
ISBN 9781432739645
Reviewed by Maggie Desmond-O’Brien (age 14) for Reader Views (12/09)

 

After weeks of disturbing nightmares, Yvonne Elyseé reluctantly consults a psychiatrist to get to the bottom of her dreams.  A book of poems written in her childhood and a deep-rooted fear of the BottomBeach of her childhood seem to hold the keys, so Yvonne must return to her family and her roots to find the answers.  First of all, an important distinction between the voice and the story – E. Laurent’s cheerful, no-nonsense voice is a pleasure to read – this story was not.  So let’s start from there.

This story is a classic example of what happens when two of the most-quoted rules of fiction writing go wrong:  One, write what you know, and two, “find the conflict!”  Writing what you know is a good thing.  But this story bore uncanny parallels to the author’s own life – a move from Dominica to the Virgin Islands to the United States, for example.  In fact, it runs so parallel that the author seems to be talking more about her own life than her characters’ – and that leaves the story without the slightest bit of distinctive voice.  And, as for “finding the conflict,” this story is cheerful and buoyant to a fault, to a point where it becomes cloying and chirpy and downright annoying to read.  Never have I read a story more lacking in bite or impact than this one.

But also, never have I read a book more tantalizing.  Laurent’s vivid descriptions of Dominica and BottomBeach were fascinating and well-written, and her grasp of everything island was a delight to read – obviously, because she’s lived it!

The problem was that it should have been longer.  The problem was that there was no story arc.  The problem was…I could go on.  However, it doesn’t change the fact that E. Laurent has put herself out there as a talented author, even though most likely her characters will be nothing special, and neither will her plots.  But if she can continue to take us to her homeland as beautifully and engagingly as she very nearly did here, instead of focusing on the stigma of seeing a psychiatrist and difficult family relations, I know that I would continue to read.

So, all in all, I look forward to future work—despite how short this novel, “BottomBeach,” fell.

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