Desert Isle Keeper
Sometimes you finish a book and all you can do is sit collapsed in your chair until your brain and body return from the place where the author transported you.
Kora Oliver, Tony-winning actress turned director, and Tariq Evans, NFL star turned financial advisor, have known each other for over two decades. They are each others’ best friend and closest confidante, and also their greatest lover (yes, they’re sleeping together). What they aren’t is a couple, at least not in the conventional sense. A short stint as boyfriend and girlfriend in their twenties turned ugly (“Constantly fighting ugly… Potential assault charges ugly,”), and the pair decided they could live without their relationship but not without their friendship, so they broke it off. Now, over a decade later, have they changed and matured enough to make a go of it?
Kora and Tariq are so flat-out real that it’s breathtaking. You know how you can’t summarize actual people you know just by talking about their character traits? That’s how I feel trying to write about them. I could say that Kora is hardworking and driven, and Tariq is confident and loyal, but they’re both more than that. They don’t have checklist flaws like ‘temper’ or ‘kind’; they are flawed because they are rounded humans, and rounded humans are flawed. Kora has survived personal challenges (she got pregnant with her daughter at fifteen) and triumphed in the elite world of theater, but she is jealous in love and wilfully indirect with Tariq. Tariq has leveraged his NFL credibility into a career competently advising young players – I loved a scene where he scolds a player about his spending habits and sets a hard limit of $100,000 on a new car. He’s also selfishly unavailable to his girlfriend and hair-splitting on questions like “are you and Kora sleeping together?”
Speaking of which, these are some hot sex scenes. But while the sex is a strong part of the showing-not-telling that the author does, it’s only part. Kora and Tariq match on emotional and social levels as well. When Tariq is distraught at three am, he turns up at Kora’s apartment. When Kora’s daughter is in a crisis, Kora enlists Tariq to help (Tariq’s close, loving, and pampering relationship with Kora’s daughter, who is also his goddaughter, is further lovely evidence that this family needs to get together).
And the secondary characters! Kora and Tariq both have rivals for their affections, and too often in romances, those characters are stock distractions. Here, Paul, Kora’s ex-husband, has multiple layers, including rivalry with Tariq and genuine love of Kora. You don’t think she’s an idiot for having married him, and you don’t think he’s wrong in having sought the divorce. Tariq is dating Julissa Santos, a lawyer who we know is completely right in her tingling spidey sense about Kora and Tariq even as Tariq tries to shrug off her concerns. Does she get mad? Yes (with some ethnic temper jokes that I didn’t love). But even Kora says she probably has a point. Rounding out the cast, Nubia Perry transcends the best-buddy archetype with her get-a-grip scoldings and sharp insights, Kora’s daughter comes of age with many of the attendant poor choices, and mothers and grandparents make mistakes.
I just can’t talk enough about how truthful this book felt, and how much more powerful it was as a result of that honesty. In seeing, truly seeing, Kora and Tariq, with their good and bad choices, I was sucked into their story in a way I can’t be with more superficial characters. Furthermore, in its last act, the book tackles survivorship in a respectful and realistic way.
I have precisely two further criticisms about this book. I would like the author to use a comma in direct address (“Hello Kora” should be “Hello, Kora”), and at one point, there is a typo. That’s pretty much it. So if you can live with that comma omission, get thee to Amazon and scoop up Inevitable Conclusions. The most inevitable conclusion about this book is that you’ll love it, too.