A gathering place for authors, readers, and publishers in far northern California (Chico, Paradise, Redding, and beyond) to read about the work of local writers, visiting authors, and others. Reviews are copyright Chico Enterprise-Record and are used by permission.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Chicoan Joel York, his biography notes, is a world traveler
who worked as “a Fortune 500
manager, a chef, a hotelier, a sailor, a bartender and an event producer”and
caught a 200-pound yellowfin tuna.
He became a freelance journalist and now adds novelist to
his resumé. “Chasing Paradise”($14.95
in paperback from CreateSpace; available at joelyork.net/home.html)
is the story of a divorced man in his mid-twenties looking for a fresh start.
His venue is St. John in the Virgin Islands, where “there were no last names, there were
no calendars, there were no watches, there were only wet and dry versions of
summer ... the perfect place to redeem my past and create my future.”
Arriving on the island at the end of 2001, the unnamed
narrator becomes a sous chef at CaféWahoo “in the World’s Largest Open Air Asylum”and
soon makes friends, including Tara, with whom he falls in love; Luke, who
characterizes life’s peccadillos as “just puddin’in
a bowl”; and Daniel, who
would become his mentor. The story begins with Daniel’s murder and in tracing what comes
before, the narrator never escapes the realization that even a Caribbean
paradise is no paradise.
There’s lots of
drinking (“my liver, once
voluptuous and vibrant, shriveled into a caramelized rum ball from a life of
perpetual happy hours”) and plenty of
funta (“a local blend of
tobacco and weed”). Daniel does
not partake. “He’d beaten alcoholism and drug
addiction. He built his own successful business (no easy task for a white guy
in the Caribbean). He’d watched
countless friends come and go--even enduring the long and agonizing death of
The narrator is kicked by a horse and gets nicknamed
Hop-Along (which he hates), but it sticks. Tara betrays him, he becomes
estranged from Luke, and Daniel’s
beloved Redemption Song, his boat, is smashed by a freak hurricane. He has to
“I met so many people while on island, all of
them colorful and engaging, but truth be told, the most interesting person I
met was me.” The novel pulls the
reader in and won’t let go.