The Canticle of Ibiza

Justin Kurian

Publisher: Stillwater Press Pages: 390 Price: (paperback) $16.99 ISBN: 9781963296068 Reviewed: June, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

In Justin Kurian’s novel of redemption and self-realization, a New Yorker journeys to Ibiza in the summer of 1988 to find a long-lost friend—and regain his sense of human connection.

Fifteen years ago, John Balkus was an idealistic college graduate with plans to launch a philosophical and theological journal with his best friend, Gunther. He abandoned both to take a lucrative hedge fund job—a decision he now bitterly regrets. Following rumors that Gunther’s living off the grid in Ibiza, this “blessed island of second chances,” John is hoping to find out what’s become of him and put things right if he can.

John interacts with the local and ex-pat community on the island during his search, from the hippie market at Las Dalias and the sunset festival of Benirrás to a secret pot-growing commune farmed by nudists. But as the summer wears on, it seems possible he may never find Gunther—and that some of the ex-pats have agendas of their own.

Packed with thought-provoking dialogue and peppered with magic realism, The Canticle of Ibiza succeeds as a tale of salvation. But its appeal is much broader: It’s smart, fast-paced, and entertaining. The novel’s many eccentric characters, though underdeveloped, are sharply observed (a bullying woman’s hair is “strangulated into a ponytail”), and wry humor abounds (approaching an isolated dwelling, John wonders: “What is the Geneva international statutory regulation for huts: Is knocking requisite?”).

John can come off as intellectually smug—people are frequently awed by his wide-ranging knowledge—a tendency that’s offputting and seems antithetical to his desire for stronger human connection. Additionally, the writing sometimes feels overwrought, as when a lovely woman brushes by and “the air tingled of delicate flowers,” or, in response to being called a liar, John responds: “And in what form is my current prevarication manifesting?”

The good news is that readers can easily overlook any missteps and will enjoy what is overall a highly compelling novel.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

Author's Current Residence
Dobbs Ferry, New York
Available to buy at: