Diana McCaulay, the author of this book, a finalist for the Burt Award for teen/young adult fiction has since inked a deal for a US edition of the book (image to the right), originally published in the Caribbean (image to the left) – so congrats to her. Of course, since there’s a new edition in a different market, this throwback is also new. It was originally published in 2016 – you can read an interview posted to my blog at the time of the release, here. Gone to Drift, in simplest terms, is the story of a young boy in a desperate race against the clock to find and rescue his grandfather who has gone missing – while trying to say ahead of those who are ill-intentioned. As his people are poor fisher-folk, the story’s environmental theme fits comfortably with the plot and as you grow to care about the boy your heart sits uncomfortably in your chest.
An introduction to my review
Remove the sub-text about the larger environmental issues and you still have a pulse quickening drama, and a poignant social narrative, at the heart of which is a boy you come to not only root for but love. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Lloydie managed at least twice to bring tears to my eyes.
The irony is the very things we are so quick to uproot and destroy in the name of tourism are the very things which add to our appeal as a tourist destination. And that’s what was on my mind as the tension ramped up in Gone to Drift – a young boy racing against the clock to save his grandfather, a fisherman who had run afoul of dolphin poachers.
McCaulay is good at what she does. Among her strengths, characterization – as I said Lloydie is as real to me as my own nephews and I feel as protective; and world building. World building, you say, but her story is set in Jamaica, it already exists. It does and it doesn’t. She admits to fictionalizing parts of that world. But even if you think you know that world, what she and all good writers remind us is that there is general knowing and there is specific knowing. And this is a world specifically of men and women of the sea. She had to put us there, then when the grandfather was a boy coming of age in St. Elizabeth and now, the bleaker reality Lloyd lives in in Kingston, where the sea has become a desert and desperate men and women make ill-conceived choices. She draws that world vividly and poignantly and beautifully.
My instinct to re-post this one has to do in part with my concerns about the tug-o-war between the environment and culture, and commerce – my concerns about what we value, in the wake of hurricane Irma and the revival of the debate over land traditionally held in communal ownership over in my sister island, Barbuda. Not entirely related to some of the concerns intertwined in my initial review, but not entirely unrelated either.