Verdict: 4 Stars
Part mystery, part expose’, and part travelogue, The Man Who Turned Both Cheeks (Atria) is the second book from Gillian Royes featuring the bartender Shadrack from Largo Bay, Jamaica. Every bit as suspenseful as the first book, this second fiction titles from Royes takes the reader places–both geographical and spiritual–that he never expected.
When Shad’s employer Eric wants to rebuild some of the town business after Hurricane Albert destroyed the hotel, he looks to his long-parted son Joseph to come to Jamaica and help him negotiate with the investor and secure all the necessary legalities. But Joseph brings with him more than just a tense father-son relationship, one in which they might speak on the phone twice a year. He brings rumors about his sexuality to a place that has been called the deadliest location for a homosexual individual on Earth. Despite a passionate romance brewing between Joseph and returned-home local Janna, Joseph’s lover, Raheem, arrives for a visit and tears apart any thread that held the townspeople back from their hatred.
When picking up a novel about the popular resort destination, a sunny locale whose reputation is about tourism and once-in-a-lifetime vacations, it’s heart-rending to read about the hostility and hatred towards outsiders who are even suspected of homosexuality. The lynch mobs that roam the streets at night, armed with machetes and clubs and ready to burn down homes, belie the visions of sun-kissed beaches and cocktails under umbrellas. But in Royes’ sequel to The Goat Woman from Largo Bay, that undercurrent of hatred and violence threatens to destroy the entire town as the people seem bent on practicing generations’-old intolerance and brutality rather than put aside their prejudices to rebuild the struggling town’s tourism economy.