Soon after Charlie Jumper, the hero of Forever Island, learns that the patch of swamp he has occupied in the Everglades for sixty years is to be cleared to make room for a housing development, he poles his ancient dugout deep into the swaying River of Grass. He gazes into the peaceful sunset, surrounded by the natural beauty of his land, and he thinks about the past: [View video of this excerpt here]
Charlie . . . had seen the white man come into this land and slaughter the egret for its feathers, shooting them only when nesting on the rookery, killing them by the hundreds of thousands, and leaving the young either to die in the nest or be eaten by vultures . . ., the water around the mangroves turning red with blood; and he had seen the white man come into this land and slaughter the alligator, shipping out their hides fifty thousand at a time to be made into wallets and shoes . . .; and he had seen the white man come with his mules and his curses and his saws and his puffing trains and strip the land of the giant bald cypress, cutting them down like fields of sugar care; and he had seen the white man wipe out the tree snails so that their shells could be sold as trinkets; and he had seen the white man dig the canals and drain the land and come closer and closer until he was now here again, once more telling the Seminole that he could not live on this land because the white man wanted it. ~ Patrick Smith
This passage strikes the theme Forever Island. It is about the encroachments of “civilization,” in the form of the white man’s greed and rapacity, on one of the nation’s last natural strongholds, the Florida Everglades. The white man is the unrepentant villain, with his utter disregard for anything except his own welfare, his own profit, his own law.
Forever Island has become the classic novel of the Everglades, evoking this haunting landscape in Smith’s straight-forward storytelling style. Forever Island is the novel that vaulted Patrick Smith to international fame as a writer of fiction. Since it first appeared 14 years ago, it has been published in 36 countries. Due to the success of this book in the Soviet Union, Patrick and his wife were flown to Russia and given an all expense paid trip through the USSR for two weeks. Smith subsequently returned to Russia on another trip, followed by a trip to Bulgaria, all as a result of this book’s popularity. Now you have to read it to find out why…
∗∗∗∗∗ You can read the entire 1st chapter right now, for free. Click here. ∗∗∗∗∗
A Book Review of Forever Island Acclaimed Historical Novel Speaks Of Naples, Integrity and Spirituality by Steven Skelley
The history of beautiful Naples, FL is a major ingredient in the delightfully emotionally-moving recipe of Patrick D. Smith’s acclaimed novel Forever Island. Two dear friends recommended the book to me recently and, as I began to read, I was immediately transported back in time to a land of both a forgotten kind of integrity and yet also a seemingly insatiable greed to remove nature from our beautiful state and replace it with development after development and golf course after golf course.
Forever Island is the story of Charlie Jumper, a native American who lives in the Everglades not far from Naples. His wife, Lillie Tiger, makes clothes that are often sold to the white people in Naples. They try to live a simple life in tune with nature, only taking what they need and always trying to give back to their environment as they understand that life and nature work together in the big plan of planet earth.
Each year of Charlie Jumper’s 86 years on earth have seen Florida’s natural beauty reduced and lost forever. For over 60 years, Charlie has hand fed his best friend, Little George, a nearly 20 foot long alligator Charlie saved when it was a baby from being blinded and tortured just for fun by a white tourist. Charlie Jumper and Lillie Tiger try to pass on their love and unity with Florida’s natural beauty and variety to their son and young grandson even as they watch the Florida they know disappear.
At one point a Baptist preacher asks Charlie Jumper if he is a religious man. Charlie’s reply is one we should all consider carefully.”I was once a Baptist like you….and the white missionary came to me and told me that the Indian way was all wrong and that if I ever wanted to see the Great Spirit, I would have to become the Baptist and do it the white man’s way. So I became the Baptist. And then another missionary came and he was the Methodist….he told me that the Baptist way was not the right way and if I wanted to see the Great Spirit, I would have to become the Methodist. And then another white missionary came and he was the Presbyterian… he told me that the Methodist way was not the right way and if I wanted to see the Great Spirit, I would have to become the Presbyterian. I said to him that if the white man cannot decide among themselves which is the right way I will become the Indian again and seek the Great Spirit in my own way….and that is what I have done, and I will see the Great Spirit when the time comes.”
Later in the book, developers begin to poison the land with arsenic in an effort to rid it of nature’s encyclopedia of wildlife. Charlie Jumper watches friends, both animal and human, suffer and die along with the Florida he has known his entire life.
Forever Island is a classic novel by a Pulitzer Prize nominated Florida author that remembers the Naples and Florida that once was, the kind of integrity that has become so rare, and the kind of child-like simple faith that we all need. Reprinted from a column by Steven Skelley in the Naples Sun Times newspaper.