Kevin Armstrong's stories introduce us to travelers, sailors, and indigenous peoples whose fates are both strange and compellingly familiar. A Tongan boy is raised as a girl and then transplanted to the American Midwest. A desperate widow seeks asylum for her young daughter, only to deliver her into the hands of a sexual predator. A sailor feels at home neither on land nor at sea.
Universal themes of love and belonging, distance and distraction tie together these singular stories, each set among the scattered islands of the Pacific Ocean. Magical, haunting, and dislocating, Night Watch hails the arrival of a fresh new voice.
Beach bums, sailors, migr s and island natives are the protagonists of this dark, moody debut collection by a young Canadian. In eight short stories, Armstrong reprises a favorite genre of yesterday-tales of the South Pacific: of Fiji, Australia, Tahiti, Bora Bora. These are faraway places, the stuff of colorful brochures and posters, but the stories owe nothing to James Michener. Sharply told, without glamour or sighing soundtracks, they tell of white men at workaday boating tasks between islands, drinking and smoking pot, as in the title story, or of native tribes, condemned to menial tasks and small hopes. In "The Cane Field," an Australian con man travels the islands, fooling penniless Indian settlers with a newspaper advertisement for an "Indian Wife." "The First Motion of Love" takes the form of a letter, in which an itinerant and possibly dangerous Canadian, a would-be writer, recounts his adventures to a well-known New Zealand author. Armstrong takes a different tack in "The Legend of Kuop," a simple, harsh tale modeled after the legends of Polynesia. In perhaps the most beautiful story, "Drowning in Air," a young islander, Tuelen, is inspired by the beauty of underwater life to carve exquisite wooden sculptures, which his father sees only as tourist merchandise. Armstrong's taste for the enigmatic sometimes leads to obscurity, but his measured perspective and cool eye cast the South Seas in a new light. Agent, Denise Bukowski. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.