novel : Coconut Oil
author: Joe Linker
available at Amazon.com
Coconut Oil is the sequel to Joe Linker’s recent novel Penina’s Letters . I wrote a review of Penina’s Letters and , so , Joe sent me a copy of the sequel . He had to send it over to Poland , but it caught up with me here in Szczecin . The UPS guy knocked on the door and rattled off a few rushed words that I didn’t understand ; but I could see the package in his grip and he deftly put two and two together and handed over the package from America to me.
I was excited to get the new novel . Now I might find out what has happened to that young soldier -returned- from -war Salvador Persequi , and how about his love interest to whom he wrote the letters , the enigmatic Penina ? Did Sal , known to his friends as Salty , get himself together enough to get by and have a good life over the years ? Did he stay in the beach town of Refugio ? Did he stay surfing , and was he successful in staying with the girl ? How might the letter-writing passion have worked itself out ?
Coconut Oil . So , what the heck is coconut oil ? There are door-to-door salesmen who sell the stuff, it seems , at least in Refugio there are . The novel begins with a domestic dialog between Penina and Sal about the stuff . So , we know they have stayed together . You , as reader , have to hold on , right from the start as the novel , perhaps more of a long poem , takes off into the hinterland , with the first chapter : Wintertide .
In Two Crabs , the next chapter , we re-visit the casual interactions of our curious couple as they wander the beach , rent a boat , barbeque burgers , and consider grabbing a beer at Crab’s bar . Sal mentions the letter writing gig again , in passing . I found myself wondering , reading Two Crabs , if the relationship had somehow bogged down into serial crabbing with one another . Is that the hint the author intends ?
Next we learn that Puck Malone , the surf shop owner friend from Penina’s Letters , is now the mayor of Refugio . Evidently , there is a homeless problem in the town , and Puck sets up a committee to study the issue . Penina volunteers for the committee . Sal’s reaction :
This committee of Puck’s you volunteered us for . Seriously ? Jumping into that kind of noise does not sound peaceful to me .
Peace is boring , she tells him , and people need our help . She and Sal are opposites , perhaps . He says :
I accused Penina of being a mixed metaphor , while she accused me of being a rhetorical wreck.”
But , what have we learned , really , about this couple ? As the novel progresses , I wondered . How did the two of them get by over the years ? We do find out what they’ve done to make a living . Now , in Coconut Oil , they are retiring and moving back to Refugio . But , we discover that Refugio itself is suddenly deconstructed . Puck and Sal wander the inexplicably vacant area that was once the old Refugio . They discuss plans for the land , as if the whole place is owned by Puck , who we know has become inexplicably super-rich . Sal and Penina now live , at least temporarily , with Puck in Puck’s newly built super -mansion . And Puck , by the way , has re-discovered a long-shipwrecked load of coconuts , with which he plans a business selling coconut oil .
Before we get there , though , we hear from the homeless Sister Bernice , her nun’s tale , and also the Waif’s tale , and I began to wonder if I had stumbled somehow into Chaucer , having previously rambled through passages reminiscent of that Irish writer , James Joyce , or perhaps Flann O’ Brien , spiced with a sprinkle of e.e. cummings , and other embedded literati who have easily managed to escape my recognition .
So , I suppose the way I understand it is this : Sal and Penny wind up homeless , in a way , living with the rich friend , Puck , in a big but definitely un-homelike house of his , while they are engaged in trying to help a group of homeless squatters in a town which is about to be torn apart , a place where , evidently , everyone’s lives are to be disrupted ; but (never fear ! ) there are plans in the works to rebuild . Sometime . Meanwhile , there will be coconut oil available , an ocean of lotion , sold door to door .
The novel begins with a quote from Shakespeare’s As You Like It . Perhaps Joe Linker has thrown us unawares into some mysterious and unique place like the Shakespearean woods of Arden , where we best , as we read , keep our wits about us , watch for and accept what comes along , and enjoy the journey .
6 responses to “Book Review : Coconut Oil”
Thanks for the review, Dan!
You are welcome .
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If anything would entice me to read a book it would be mis-shapen allusions within it of Shakespeare or Chaucer that join us all in that cavalcade continuing. A Puck turned Falstaffian, a Refugio now far from it, seems to suggest a gentle Hogarthian satire, affectionate but disappointed. In that disappointment lies a tribute to the potential in each character, but the reality inexorably more determining.. ‘Peace is boring’ might signal why it eludes almost universally! Obviously one to compel addition to the pile next the bed. When I can recover the peace required to read at all!
Hmm…At first, I thought not Hogarth, because of the sequence problems, but the more I think about it, the more I do see how Hogarth might be inferred. I feel like I’m making progress!
Pilgrim’s Progress perhaps.