Swimming in the Volcano

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Set on the fictional Caribbean island of St. Catherine, an American expatriate becomes unwittingly embroiled in an internecine war between rival factions of the government. Into this potentially explosive scene enters a woman once loved and lost, but who remains a powerful temptation - one that proves impossible to resist.

The National Book Award-winning author of The Next New World now presents a gripping, magnificently realized novel of sexual and political ...

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Swimming in the Volcano

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Overview

Set on the fictional Caribbean island of St. Catherine, an American expatriate becomes unwittingly embroiled in an internecine war between rival factions of the government. Into this potentially explosive scene enters a woman once loved and lost, but who remains a powerful temptation - one that proves impossible to resist.

The National Book Award-winning author of The Next New World now presents a gripping, magnificently realized novel of sexual and political intrigue set in the Caribbean--"a book heady with language and thick with story that leaves the reader exhilarated" Chicago Tribune.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This first novel is as evocative and beautifully written as any of Shacochis's short fiction ( Easy in the Streets ). Unfortunately, however, the greater length reveals failings in the American Book Award winner's grasp of plot, structure and pacing. In 1976, Mitchell Wilson signs on as an agricultural economist on St. Catherine, a fictional island in the Lesser Antilles. Just as he has settled into a routine and a circle of expatriate and native friends, his life is disrupted by the appearance of his first love, the volatile Johanna. Equally unsteady is the island's ruling coalition, which is coming apart under threat from a counterrevolutionary menace fabricated by discontented members. The bulk of the book is filled with careful, almost pointillist, portraits of Wilson's friends, an often unattractive group who combine '60s altruism with '70s self-involvement. After he has so carefully set the stage, though, the rush of events that Shacochis manipulates in the last fourth of the book seems improbable and leaves the reader feeling cheated. While he does not stint on an extravagant backdrop of island patois, poincianas, politics, cocoa tea and callaloo, Shacochis's touch is not so sure as he deploys the characters in this setting: men and women, blacks and whites, colonials and revolutionaries, all struggling with a combination of idealism and reality. (Apr.)
Library Journal
In the opening pages of Shacochis's splendid first novel, Mitchell Wilson, an American who works for the Ministry of Agriculture on the Caribbean island of St. Catherine, is heading downhill. His lost love, Joanna, has decided to drop into his life again, and he's on his way to the airport to meet her, riding in a dilapidated car whose brakes--dependent on coconut oil for braking fluid--have failed. Wilson's harrowing ride is a perfect metaphor for life on St. Catherine's and for the turn his own life is about to take. Joanna may have come to St. Catherine simply to escape trouble, but Wilson still bristles when a government official tells him to stay clear of her. He should have listened. This may sound like a fast-paced thriller, but though there's a mystery to crack at the heart of this richly detailed novel, Shacochis in fact offers a chilling evocation of the misunderstandings that arise between feckless Americans and struggling islanders for whom St. Catherine's is no paradise. The author's maximalist prose, lush as the tropics he's describing, could have used some pruning--but then we might have lost a few flowers. Highly recommended; Shacochis is the author of Easy in the Islands ( LJ 2/1/85), a short story collection that won the American Book Award. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/92.-- Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684192604
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 5/28/1993
  • Pages: 519

Meet the Author


A contributing editor for Outside and Harper's, Bob Shacochis has been a GQ columnist and writer for numerous other national publications. He is also the author of the novel, Swimming in the Volcano, a work of literary reportage about Haiti, The Immaculate Invasion, a second collection of stories, The Next New World, and a collection of essays on food and love, Domesticity. He lives in Florida and New Mexico.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2012

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