With elements of a Shakespearean comedy, Larry Lockridge’s compact but entertaining novel chronicles the temporary triumphs and subsequent mishaps of a group that unites to save the island of Cyprus in 2024.
Following a prologue introducing narrator Bart Beasley, a “midlist author” searching for fresh memoir material, the narrative settles on four of six think tank members at a restaurant. Beasley, who assembled his team on behalf of the amorphous Soros foundation, observes his fellow “geniuses” with the self-awareness of a seasoned reporter and the philosophical consideration of a defeated poet. After a slight delay, the missing members arrive, and the group is alight with the possibility of revitalizing the island and ending the strife between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. But soon the visionaries discover that uncontrollable forces often sabotage the best-laid plans.
The story centers on the think tank members, using Cyprus as an idyllic, sometimes magical backdrop. Romantic misfires are amusing; for instance, African American nutritionist Jasmine Ivory initially has a crush on English zoologist Darcy Peatman, but he’s fixated on meteorologist Gayle Drake-Larkin who favors Beasley. Some moments are surreal scene-stealers, such as when the group experiences a “storybook tsunami,” riding out the waves on the backs of sea turtles.
Lockridge’s prose is descriptive, but the characters are constrained by their outlandish quirks; insights into their inner worlds remain surface level. In particular, the relationship between Jasmine and white archeologist Melusina Frei functions primarily as a spectacle—the group’s designated shock-value odd couple. Jasmine is not a fully formed person but a source of shameless fascination and otherness for Beasley.
While the narrative prioritizes plot over complex characterization, it’s ultimately a snappy parable about the naiveté of humans. The participants may not get exactly what they want, but ultimately, they find new ways to live. Marcia Scanlon’s illustrations capture the characters’ comically absurd adventures.
Those looking for a romp through a familiar yet heightened world should appreciate Lockridge’s fantastical tale.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.