What makes a reviewer grant a five-star rating to an author's first book? This reviewer read Gillian Royes' The Goat Woman of Largo Bay and thought it an excellent read for many reasons.
The book touched my heart. Many years ago when I was trying to figure out my own existence, I remember a counselor telling me that the dissolution of my spirit just might be my Dark Night of the Soul.
In Christian terms, the Dark Night of the Soul refers to the supreme anguish a person experiences, a definite meaninglessness and hopelessness, that drives her/him towards God.
In The Goat Woman of Largo Bay, Simone, caught up in the dissolution of her marriage and a vehicular accident that left her beloved daughter dead, is reeling in a kind of despair.
But, God, she is not seeking. She is seeking herself.
Her quest is for a person - a being - one that will gift her decimated thinking with some beam of hope - any light ray - that life, as she has known it, is still worthwhile.
As a result, this deeply troubled Simone squats on a very tiny island off the coast of Largo Bay. She seeks no one. She seeks no thing. She seeks to survive. She seeks to find meaning in her own personality. In her distressed mind, she hopes only to prove that, as a woman, she is worthwhile, if to no one else, then at least to herself.
How? Her distraught mind guilts her to believe that she must survive on the island that at one time had joined the small village of Largo Bay via narrow peninsula. Now, because of a ferocious past hurricane, the island and its decaying hotel ruins are left to the ravages of the open sea. This decimated hotel becomes Simone's refuge.
Fortunately, two brave villagers who first think they see life on the tiny island eventually realize that The Goat Woman of Largo Bay is a human being. They begin providing her with much removed warmth because she is so distant. As time passes, it appears that Simone may be on the brink of a total mental breakdown, fighting the possessive ghosts of her past. She shares any spoken thoughts with a stranded mutt of a dog named Cammy.
What will happen to The Goat Woman of Largo Bay? Can she survive alone? Who, if any one, can break through her well fortified mental fortress to ease her isolated anguish? Will it be a villager from Largo, a family member who finally tracks her down, or will it take another ferocious storm?
These questions I will leave for you, the reader. Suffice it to say, The Goat Woman of Largo Bay is not the usual cloak/dagger/suspense with romance thrown in. Author Gillian Royes' novel will disturb you - it will haunt you, because all of us, in one way or another have had our own Dark Night of the Soul. How Simone survives what she has set out for herself as an almost impossible task will leave your imagination demanding some kind of closure if not her rescue!
I cannot recommend books of this caliber high enough. The Goat Woman of Largo Bay is a tale for both female and male readers who hope the human spirit will survive in spite of indomitable odds. I take my hat off to author Gillian Royes. Please keep on writing and writing and writing.
Gillian Royes, a Jamaican-born educator, editor and consultant, has made a wonderful foray into the world of fiction and mystery with The Goat Woman of Largo Bay, the first in a series featuring Shadrack Myers. Although Shad has almost no formal education, he's an intelligent and observant man, known as the smart-man in the small town of Largo Bay, Jamaica.
Shad bartends for Eric Keller, an American who has never been quite the same since his hotel, located on a small island off Largo Bay, was destroyed in a hurricane. One day, while he's working at Eric's bar, Shad notices something moving among the hotel ruins. At first he thinks it's a goat, but binoculars reveal that it's a woman.
Why is a woman alone on the island? How did she get there? What is she up to? Curious, Shad and Eric set out to confront her. The fiercely independent Simone piques their interest. She offers to pay rent, so Eric lets her stay.
Shad's slightly shady past comes back to confront him, however, when some criminals he knows start asking questions about the woman. He's kept busy trying to figure out what Sharpie and Tiger are up to, while simultaneously delving into Simone's secrets and keeping his wife and four kids out of the situation.
Told mostly from Shad's point of view in Jamaican patois, The Goat Woman of Largo Bay will transport you to another world--a beautiful, tropical world with a rather seedy underbelly.
--Jessica Howard, bookseller, Bookmans Entertainment Exchange