Desert Isle Keeper
I know a book is good when I skip my usual nap during the morning commute to read it, especially after staying up half the night because I had to see where the story went next. This book is an about an Irish rock star who preaches peace and love and giving to charities around the world (is it just me or do Bob Geldoff and Bono immediately jump to mind?) I expected cheesy (I don’t normally like books with performers for main characters), but this one wasn’t corny. To begin with it’s set mostly in 1989, back when rock stars were still more than one album wonders and they were politically active. Also, the author wisely mentions U2, which prevented me from thinking of them in comparison to the fictional rock band of the story.
Our hero is Devin O’Keefe, lead singer of the Irish rock band O’Keefe. Devin was raised in Derry, Northern Ireland. As the book opens he is marching in a peaceful protest in 1972, the one that becomes known as Bloody Sunday when British soldiers open fire. Devin’s older brother is killed and he is wounded. That day he vows to make the British pay. Fast-forward about 15 years and we see a different Devin; a man devoted to music and non-violence. He’s a fast rising star in the world of Rock n’ Roll, but a mystery to his fans. Early in his career he stopped speaking to the media. So imagine the shock of our heroine when he agrees to allow her access to a do book on him and his band for their Eclipse tour of the States.
Enter Fonda (as in Henry) Blayne, an American photojournalist for a Rolling Stone type magazine Spotlight. Fonda was first intrigued by O’Keefe when she saw them perform in Live Aid in ’86 when they were virtually unknown, and she’s thrilled at the chance to capture them on film in ’89. She sees this as her chance to make it big in the business. It would be a great stepping stone toward her goal of her own rock magazine as well. Since Devin personally requested her, she’s shocked when she first meets him and he rebuffs her – he says the book wasn’t his idea and he doesn’t like the media. But although Devin doesn’t seem to like her much, she realizes that he’s always watching her.
Devin has his reasons for pushing Fonda away and they mostly lead back to Caitlyn, his wife. In a misguided fit of young love, Devin married Caitlyn, only to learn to his horror she was an active member of the IRA, an organization Devin despises for the violence they continue to bring to his homeland. Why doesn’t Devin just divorce her? Well, for starters, Devin is Catholic, and divorce was not a legal option for the Irish until 1996.
This isn’t a story about the politics of Northern Ireland, though – it doesn’t preach that the British should get out and it does not make the IRA into heroes. Instead, it focuses on how the violence affects the people who live there. On one hand we have Devin, a man sick of violence who uses his music to spread his message of tolerance. Then there is Caitlyn, a woman so twisted by the violence and the Cause that she is dead inside. All that matters to her is killing or destroying those not in line with her mission.
Fonda, like most Americans, is baffled by the Troubles in Northern Ireland. As she learns more about Devin and becomes closer to him, she tries to get him to open up about his past. She sees the sadness that lurks in his eyes and listens to the horrors he’s seen in his songs, but he keeps it bottled up. To Fonda this feels like rejection, and she can’t understand why Devin won’t talk to her. Is she competing with his past, or is it because she’s an American and can’t understand the politics of his homeland?
There is a lot going on in this story. First and foremost is the romance between Devin and Fonda. It’s a joy to watch as these two people come together. There’s also a subplot involving Devin’s manager misdirecting money meant for charities into arms for the IRA, a love story between Fonda’s younger sister, Jessie, and a roadie, and some mysterious secret that Devin’s best friend is keeping.
Only two things kept this book from being perfect. First, St. Devin. If it weren’t for the fact that he does not talk to Fonda about what’s going on and his mood swings, he would be too perfect. Thank God I wanted to shake Devin half the book otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate his saintly factor. He doesn’t date for three years before Fonda comes along, he doesn’t go to wild parties, he gives the majority of his money away, and everyone loves him. My other problem is how his marriage to Caitlyn was resolved so he and Fonda could have their happily ever after. It worked, but it was the easy way out.
When the book ended, I was disappointed, because I hated leaving these characters behind. These were interesting people that I enjoyed spending time with, and will miss. Also, this was a story that made me stop and think. As I mentioned before, it does not take sides on the issue of Northern Ireland, but it shows a side of the issue often brushed aside in all the political talk – what growing up amongst the strife does to the psyche of Ireland’s people. I look forward to more books by Carole Bellacera and can’t wait to read her previous novel, Border Crossings. I strongly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys an interesting story with engaging characters and an intricate plot.