The Dark of the Is­land

Philip Ger­ard

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - GARY PRES­LEY

John F. Blair Pub­lisher Soft­cover $17.95 (254pp) 978-0-89587-660-7

Greed, re­gret, de­ceit, and be­tray­als drive the mys­tery, but Ger­ard’s lit­er­ary, of­ten emo­tion­ally charged, writ­ing make this a worth­while read.

In The Dark of the Is­land, Philip Ger­ard fol­lows a man drift­ing through life as he con­fronts his hid­den fam­ily his­tory. As ac­ces­si­ble as pop fic­tion, Ger­ard’s novel is a provoca­tively imag­ined emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal tale.

Ni­cholas Wolf works for Northam, an in­de­pen­dent oil out­fit. Help­ing to “soften the foot­print, min­i­mize the dis­rup­tion” where Northam drills, Wolf is the “com­pany sto­ry­teller,” his work part PR, part on-the-scene re­porter to his home of­fice. Wolf and Fan­non, a project man­ager, are dis­patched to Hat­teras Is­land on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. As they sur­vey off­shore prospects, the pair meet re­sis­tance, some­times vi­o­lent, not the least of all be­cause of a se­cret linked to Wolf’s grand­fa­ther, a Ger­man im­mi­grant who left the US to fight for the Nazis. Wolf soon be­gins to feel he’s “in a for­eign coun­try with­out a fixer.”

The char­ac­ter-driven nar­ra­tive cir­cles around Wolf, is­land pa­tri­arch Liam Royal, and Liam’s grand­daugh­ter, Ju­lia, a young di­vor­cée who re­turns to the is­land reluc­tantly. Snap­pish and quick to anger, Ju­lia’s hard shell is sketched in a few words. For­ever walk­ing the beach, trea­sur­ing his grand­daugh­ter, Liam’s angst and guilt are more deeply lay­ered and are re­vealed slowly as be­ing re­lated to the foun­da­tion of his wealth. Wolf is a forty-some­thing in­de­pen­dent man whose char­ac­ter grows more em­pa­thetic via anec­do­tal flash­backs, be­gin­ning with Wolf’s youth, when he lived with his grand­mother and her “con­stant state of rem­i­nis­cence or an­tic­i­pa­tion.” Oma rep­re­sents mis­spent love, with Wolf nearly doomed to fol­low. Al­though Ger­ard makes only mi­nor al­lu­sions to racial op­pres­sion, the de­scen­dants of Isaac Lord, near cliché as a beloved African Amer­i­can preacher, be­come nar­ra­tive cat­a­lysts, as does Fan­non, at first ami­able, then mysterious, broad­en­ing the nicely paced story.

Hat­teras and the sea are won­der­fully ren­dered. The nar­ra­tive rests ashore on the once-iso­lated is­land of “Moon­cussers and wreck­ers,” who now must cater to tourism. Ger­ard’s de­scrip­tions of trips to and from the off­shore rig, and life aboard the rig, where the great steel beast will “shift and shimmy” in the wind, are vis­ceral.

Greed, re­gret, de­ceit, and be­tray­als drive the mys­tery, but Ger­ard’s ad­di­tion of a re­al­is­tic love story and his lit­er­ary, of­ten emo­tion­ally charged, writ­ing make this a worth­while read.

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