May Flynn, the daughter of actor Errol Flynn and a beautiful Jamaican girl, has always wondered about her roots. Brought up by her mother Ida, grandfather Eli, and, for four years, a foster family, May is clever and tough from a young age. Always an outsider, she could pass for white, though she is not part of the white world of her father and maternal grandfather. Not part of the black world, either, though she considers herself "colored," she is often mocked by her dark Jamaican peers. Frequently alone, she keeps journals, filling them with stories of pirates, inspired by the films starring Errol Flynn which she sees at the local cinema.
As May discovers more about her mother Ida's life before, during, and after her birth, she creates the story of her own life, revealing it through flashbacks. When Errol Flynn's yacht was blown ashore at Port Antonio during a 1946 hurricane, her grandfather Eli drove to his aid, soon becoming Flynn's social secretary, guide, confidant, and real estate broker. Flynn finds the relaxed atmosphere of Jamaica a welcome contrast to Hollywood, where he faces charges related to his affairs with underage girls. He soon builds a palatial estate on Navy Island, off the coast, where he entertains Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Truman Capote, and a host of other Hollywood stars. It is here that Ida, May's mother, first meets Flynn when she is thirteen.
The second part of the novel follows Ida after she gives birth to May. Trying to support her family, she leaves Jamaica (and May) to find work in New York. Her return to the island several years later, and the changes she introduces into May's life, parallel some of the changes occurring on the island itself. Cuban refugees swarm to Jamaica to escape Castro's takeover. An economic downturn and, eventually, Jamaica's own independence from the British lead to competing political movements, violence, and atrocity over the next twenty years.
Filled with colorful characters, the patina of Hollywood, and the violence of political change, the novel is a fast-paced melodrama and family saga. The author's style is clean and simple as she traces lives across generations, providing enough description to enable the reader to create vibrant pictures of the action without bogging down the narrative in detail. Illness, death, financial disaster, smuggling, secret lives, ghost stories, rumors of hidden treasure, a mysterious grave, drug addiction, thwarted love, May-December romances, and shootings are among the many elements which keep the action moving--and keep the reader in a constant state of anticipation. Author Margaret Cezair-Thompson tells the story for its own sake, not to illustrate complex themes. The novel is entertaining, filled with non-stop excitement, and sure to appeal to a wide audience. n Mary Whipple