by David Lodge
A cultured, British academic joins a tourist group on a “Hawaiian Paradise” vacation package so his father can visit his dying sister. The British academic also happens to be an ex-priest who is barely making a living as what we would call a part-time adjunct at a second or third rate university. He is no longer respected as a theologian since he left the priesthood, but he has little faith left to teach or write about anyway. This is an amusing book but told with melancholy sadness. This so-called paradise includes a dying aunt and an aging, cantankerous father hoping to inherit his sister’s large fortune. The setting is tourist Hawaii as well as the realities of Hawaii as a place real people live and love and die. The tackiness of the tourist package is incongruous with the tragedy of people’s lives. Even the minor characters have sad lives. The ending remains hopeful though. The second rate academic, ex-priest is no more incongruous here in paradise than he is anywhere else. And there are elements of the myth of paradise on earth that are real. The weather is all sunshine and warmth, and there is a healing aspect to that. For the most sensitive of readers, the hero is a laicized priest, and there are one or two tame sexual encounters involving him (after his laicization), but for the most part, the book may be a little sad on the subject of faith but is not offensive.