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Do You Remember Tulum?: Novella In The Form Of A Love Letter Paperback – March 20, 2009
The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
Alex Jeffers has published Safe as Houses, a novel, and many works of short fiction. He lives in Rhode Island and is currently working on a science-fiction novel provisionally titled A Boy's History of the World.
Top customer reviews
Actually this is not really a novel, since the main character, Alex, is the author himself, not only same name but also same surname, so I can only think that also the little details of his life, where he studied, where he lived, who is now loving, are indeed his real life. Maybe, this letter he is writing, that will become a novella in form of a love letter, is a way for him to say something to his lover, Ethan? Or maybe it's a way to plea forgiveness for something he has done and is trying to run away from? But then why if that is the case, he is coming back right in the place where all the problems seem to have begun so many years ago?
When Alex hadn't yet met Ethan (and this is a nice touch as well in this love story, Alex and Ethan are first cousins and they were pen-pals way before they met in person) he was spending a summer near Tulum and Palenque in southern Mexico; he was helping a college professor with her summer course to a group of students and among them there are Peter and Keenan, apparently straights, apparently carefree boys who will have a great impact on the older Alex, an event that will push him towards the path leading to Ethan. Is it for this reason that 10 years later Alex is back in Southern Mexico, meeting with Keenan and his new lover, but without Ethan?
It was not easy to understand if Alex was running away from Ethan to go back to a past lover, or if he was trying to fix a mistake he did in the past; only in the last pages we will understand what all this is about but one thing I understood, the love Alex has for Ethan: despite everything he was writing a love letter and the most romantic moments, and in a way also the most clear and simple, where the memories Alex had of his time spent with Ethan. So I was sure at least of one thing, that at the end of the letter Alex will return to Ethan.
The writing style is not simple, but don't worry, this is not one of those tedious novels in first point of view; it's indeed very much like a letter, like the reader was the recipient of it and was reading it at home. Alex has a way to describe both feelings than things that is rich but flowing, and it's easy to forget you are reading a first point of view novel, probably since you really identify with the narrator (or the recipient of the letter).
Eleven years later, Alex returns to the area, and writes a long letter back to his lover in Boston, as he reflects on what happened during his first trip there, and how that would impact on his life, as he had on theirs. It's a bittersweet remembrance of chances taken and missed, and accepting the results of those actions.
This is one of the strangest books I have ever reviewed. It is the "Seinfeld" of books ... a book pretty much about nothing, no plot to speak of. Yet, it is well-written, beautifully expressed, and compelling in an "acquired taste" kind of way, which drew me back repeatedly to reread passages that I had not quite understood the first time around. While just a short 170 pages, it is not an easy read, and those who demand a traditionally-structured story may want to skip it. I'm glad I didn't. Four stars out of five.
- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
In 1977, Alex, a nineteen-year-old, would-be novelist, relocates to a small town in southern Mexico. Shortly after his arrival, his boss arrives with ten students on spring break, and Alex must act as driver and chaperone to the, only somewhat younger, students. Among the youths that have come to explore ancient Mayan sites are dark, sexy Peter and quiet, mysterious Keenan. During the two week expedition where Alex pilots the boys across the Yucatan in an old van, Peter and Keenan's sexual advances upend the writer's comfortable life, making him question everything he knows about love and relationships.
A dozen years later, with a spur-of-the-moment decision, Alex leaves his Boston lover and returns to Mexico to explore his past. At Tulum he begins a rather long and detailed letter to his abandoned lover, to explain his abrupt, inadequately explained departure. As Alex tries to explain the effect the 1977 trip had on him, a then confused and frightened youth, he pours his guilt, regrets, desires, and love onto the pages of the letter, letting us know how the youth became a man capable of expressing love.
Whenever I interview a writer, I always ask what book he or she has read by another author that they wish they had written. Well for me, Do You Remember Tulum is the book I wish I had written. It is a novel, yet it is beautifully written in the form of a lengthy and delightful love letter. The prose is some of the loveliest and moving that I have read. It gave me the feeling of voyeurism, that I was secretly reading someone's letter to his lover, with all the passion and intimacy of two people deeply in love. And through this letter, this peeking into the narrator's experiences, hopes, and dreams, I watched him map the geography of love.
This is not an easy book to read. There were times when I found the story-line to be glacially slow and bogged down in delicious detail, and it often seemed to be rambling on with seemingly no direction. That aside, this travelogue never felt tedious, because the marvelous prose carried me along as if in a dream, not wanting to be wakened and confronted by the real world again. There were several parts that were stunning, and I couldn't put it down.
This is not book for everyone. People who need an obvious plot to carry them along, or bold characters who never falter, should not attempt this read. But for readers who love subtly, who enjoy seeing themselves caught within the dashes of ink on the page, who are capable of discovery, then I highly recommend this book.
writer: Island Song