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.
For more information, visit http://www.patricksmithonline.com/foreverisland.html
Book Review by Steven Skelley
Keywords: Patrick D. Smith, Forever Island, Steven Skelley,