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Cross Currents

by John Shors

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Cross Currents by John Shors
© New American Library
New American Library, September 2011

John Shors' fifth novel, Cross Currents, is a hit. Drawing on the disastrous tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in December 2004, he has created a dynamic novel of love and redemption. The scene is the near-paradise of Ko Phi Phi just off the west coast of Thailand near Phuket. The island was the setting for Leonardo DiCaprio's movie The Beach.

An introductory "author's note" makes it clear that Ko Phi Phi, a low-lying island and major tourist destination, was hit by that tsunami. One wave was ten feet high. The other was eighteen feet high. When they met in the middle of the island, one-third of the residents and visitors died, perhaps 3,500 souls. This novel is a "fictionalized account…of what happened and of the tragedies and triumphs of that day."

Having stated these facts up front makes Shors' task more difficult. He is more than up to meeting the challenge. We know that disaster is imminent and that knowledge is contrasted with the beauty of the setting. There is trouble in paradise, however.
Patch, a young American, has fled to the island from Bangkok where he has made a colossal mistake. Caught selling a small amount of marijuana, he hit a policeman then headed south to avoid incarceration in the bowels of a Thai jail. Patch has endeared himself to the owners of Rainbow Resort, a tiny Mom and Pop resort owned by Lek and Sarai. He does odd jobs for them and plays with their children, improving their English.

Life seems good, but there is a sense of impending doom. Patch is always looking over his shoulder, wondering when the police might arrive or how he can get out of Thailand. Rainbow Resort is struggling in competition with larger and better financed resorts. Lek and Sarai worry they may have to move to Bangkok, exchanging their beautiful island for work in a factory and exposing their children to a squalid, unhealthy life in a crowded city.

When Patch's brother Ryan and his girlfriend Brooke arrive to "rescue" him, further conflict arises. Ryan is a straight arrow, MBA type who believes that Patch should turn himself in, an action Patch is adamantly opposed to. Ryan and Brooke are having problems and Patch steps reluctantly into the void. Policemen come to the island and post a picture of Patch and Lek must decide whether to protect Patch by removing the poster and further endangering his family.
These and other issues build into a maelstrom of conflicts that threaten to destroy two families. Then the tsunami strikes and all the other dilemmas fade into the background. Shors handles the resolution to the issues deftly and logically. There is one small caveat, however. The resolution to one central issue is foreshadowed early on and repeated at least twice so that the solution to this major problem is too evident less than one-third into the novel.

That one caveat aside, Shors demonstrates a sure hand in setting the scene and developing characters. They are realistic, their actions consistent and appropriate. The plot is well-developed and the writing powerful. Cross Currents, and each of Shors' three previous novels (Beneath a Marble Sky, Beside a Burning Sea, Dragon House), creates a growing appreciation for his craft and storytelling ability.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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