A Salty Piece of Land
Little, Brown & Co., 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
his novel by singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffet, who also wrote
Tales from Margaritaville
, opens on the breezy musings of cowboy Tully Mars ('
just a good guy with a few bad habits
'). He tells us that he fled the position of Wyoming poodle-ranch foreman (and his vindictive ex-boss's false accusations) to become a tropical expat, and now works for 101-year-old Cleopatra Highbourne ('
professor of living long and wise
') restoring the 150-year-old Cayo Loco lighthouse. Tully keeps on musing through the book, revealing the adventures that led him to Cayo Loco.
t's a wild and wacky fantasy, whose hero seems like a slick version of Voltaire's
crossed with Joe of
Joe Versus the Volcano
. Tully Mars runs from the law and from villainous bounty hunters (with the unlikely names of Waldo and Wilton Stilton), careening from one exotic Caribbean mishap to another, with a little help from all kinds of quirky characters (with celebrity names like '
' and '
') who befriend him. Tully is also counseled from beyond the grave by his father's old friend, Indian shaman Johnny Red Dust, who gave him a special conch shell. Tully drifts through life on horseback, by shrimp-boat and schooner, bouncing from one serendipitous encounter to another.
he novel's cast of characters all inter-relate, exemplifying the
six degrees of separation
theory. They include Tully's pony Mr. Twain, Mayan medicine man Ix-Nay, Bucky Norman who owns the Lost Boys Fishing Lodge, '
Country Music Entertainer of the Year
' Tex Sex, Sammy Raye Coconuts of the '
' and Pinkland, and ex-commando Archie Mercer. In addition to our hero's own absurd adventures, readers get to share letters sent to him by Willie Singer, whom Tully has dispatched on a quixotic quest to find a Fresnel lens, needed to restore Cleopatra's lighthouse. The story culminates in a '
' celebration at the turn of the century, a fitting ending to Cleopatra's saga, and a new beginning for Tully.
hough at times I found myself impatient with its meandering style, I enjoyed
A Salty Piece of Land
- it's an engaging flight of imagination, as light, colorful, and as easily ingested as a tropical rum cocktail. As a bonus, a wonderful CD, whose lyrics celebrate '
where the song of the ocean meets a salty piece of land
', comes with the novel.
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