Sunday, September 15, 2019

"The Man with No Borders"

Richard C. Morais's books include the New York Times and international bestseller The Hundred-Foot Journey, a novel about an Indian chef who conquers the rarified world of French haute cuisine. The book sold in 35 territories around the world and in 2014 Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey released The Hundred-Foot Journey as a popular film starring Helen Mirren and Om Puri.

Morais applied the Page 69 Test to his newest novel, The Man with No Borders, and reported the following:
By chance, page 69 ends with the happiest day in the narrator José Maria Alvarez de Oviedo’s long life. It is the day, as a teenager, José catches a record 28 salmon on the Sella River in northern Spain, while helping his much-loved younger brother Juan catch his first salmon on the fly. At the end of the day, the boys joyously gather with their father and uncle in front of the fishing lodge, as the river guides lay out on the grass banks behind them all the fish the Alvarez family have caught that day. The family, drunk on fish and scotch, poses for a photograph before their salmon slaughter, just as the sun is setting “and the air around the fish is, for a glorious moment, imbued with a pink-and-blue rainbow shimmer.”

But Jose’s final observation is only about his brother: “Juan never looked more radiant and alive and full of hope for the future. One hand was lightly and possessively touching the flank of the first salmon he ever caught on the fly, but his other, it must be said, was wrapped tightly around my shoulder, pulling me close toward him.”

In many ways the entire novel is contained in those two final lines of the chapter – José is drawn in close by his brother, both Juan and the very air they breathe redolent with love and life and hope, but below the surface of this scene there is a faint sense of tragedy and foreboding and a longing to hold on to this special moment forever. But that is life – such moments slip through our fingers forever and remain, in the end, only as wispy visions in our fading memory.
Visit Richard C. Morais's website; watch a video of the author explaining why he wrote the novel.

--Marshal Zeringue