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October 12, 2018

Plumbelly by Gary Maynard ~ a Review

by MK French

How it begins...

The breeze from the southeast rippled the black water of Tongu Harbor and the only sound was the muffled clunk of the oarlocks and the quiet dipping of the oar blades as I rowed us toward Plumbelly. It was after midnight and I looked around at the silhouettes of the other boats moored in the darkness, hoped their crews were asleep, or drunk, or both. Tanya sat behind me in the bow of the skiff and Lloyd in the stern, each of us wrapped in our own silent thoughts, as sailors are wont to do on the eve of departure. It was a short row and I shipped the oars and glided alongside the sloop. Without a word, we threw over bags over the rail and climbed aboard. 
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

July 2018; Flat Hammock Press; 978-0981896038
ebook, print (226 pages); sea stories
Gabe had traveled around the world due to his father's wanderlust until they settled in the South Pacific. He makes friends with other outsiders on the islands of Ma'atea. When he fears being charged with a serious crime, he flees with Lloyd and Tanya on the sloop Plumbelly. They sail into the Pacific, but it's not the easy escape they thought it would be.

Plumbelly opens with the three teens on the sloop already, then circles back to events weeks prior to chapter 1. This is a frequent tactic in anime, novels, movies or shows, without the classic "three days later" showing up the screen. It's an indeterminate period of time between chapter 2 and the events leading up to chapter 1. Gabe is one of the few white people on the island, so he gets hassled a lot in school and in the neighborhood. One of the teachers suggested a "class trip," but it was a one on one camping trip where he tries to take advantage of Gabe. Instead, he slipped away and was injured, and soon after spent more time trying to refurbish the abandoned sloop and getting to know his friend's sister Tanya. He does threaten the principal with a gun to get that teacher fired, but the teacher soon after is shot and found dead in the harbor. Between that and his friend Lloyd's father beating him and making threatening statements, Gabe fears he will be charged with the murder.

This is Maynard's first novel. It has a lot of nautical lingo and vivid descriptions of island life and the ocean. There's a mix of island words as well as regular English slang, adding to the local flavor of the story.  It's amazing how well Gabe was able to stand up for himself, especially considering how dismissive and verbally abusive his parents and brother can be. He doesn't really have close affection ties to them, so that makes it easier for him to run away. His friendship with Lloyd and romance with Tanya are intense, as teenage relationships in such situations usually are, and Gabe goes through a lot over the course of the novel. I feel so badly for everything that had happened, and it can be said that unsecured guns were the source of a number of his problems.

The end of the novel felt abrupt, because I couldn't but think "This can't be it!" It does have a fitting ending, but it's not the one I wanted for Gabe. I was hoping that he could have his happily ever after, even if it's not a result that would have made any kind of logical sense. Maynard did a great job pulling all of these pieces together and making me so invested in Gabe's story.

Buy Plumbelly at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever. 

Linking to Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader.

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