In Brian Ray Brewer’s The Diving God, an insurance underwriter seeks refuge in Mexico amidst a difficult divorce.
With the looming threat of losing everything to his soon-to-be ex-wife in the divorce, Bob Baker takes a trip to the Yucatan region of Mexico with his girlfriend and secretary, Kathy. While there, he discovers the Temple of the Diving God, a ruin with “the image of an upside-down god carved in a niche…It wore wings and a feathered tail and grinned in its plummet to the sea…” As a former diver, the deity’s history immediately draws him in.
The morning of Bob and Kathy’s return flight, Bob decides to stay in Mexico and returns to the temple, stealthily leaving Kathy and her hopes for their romantic future behind. Bob books a hotel room near the temple and meets Tomcruise Chel Ochoa, who nearly drowns attempting a dive, and Bob agrees to be his instructor.
Between lessons, Bob meets traveler Ann Lau, and the two have a brief affair before she departs suddenly, leaving Bob heartbroken. Then, in a moment of despair fueled by alcohol, Bob resorts to cliff diving, injuring himself. The police get involved; he’s kicked out of the hotel; and Tomcruise and his mother take Bob in. There, Bob continues to teach Tomcruise and ultimately finds a new purpose and outlook in life.
The story’s strength lies in the well-crafted, atmospheric depiction of its setting. The heartwarming connection between Tomcruise and Bob is also a poignant highlight.
Yet the narrative falls flat due to a lack of character development. Nearly all the characters are one dimensional; a more nuanced exploration of their backgrounds and motivations would be welcome. And while there are romantic elements, the novel primarily focuses on Bob’s internal struggles, leaving the romantic aspects underdeveloped.
Still, it’s an uplifting story— one that, despite its flaws, should appeal to readers who, like Bob, actively seek their place and purpose in the world.
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