Beautiful, isolated Ko Phi Phi in Thailand is known for its lush scenery, gorgeous beaches and friendly locals. Lek and Sarai own the Rainbow Resort, a haven for both tourists and their three young children. When a handsome young American shows up on the island and offers the resort owners assistance in exchange for lodging, Patch is welcomed with opened arms.
With time, though, it’s obvious that Patch is running away from something — and though the American has a good heart, Lek and Sarai can’t shake the feeling that they’re helping someone who should be helping himself. Just days before Christmas, Patch’s brother Ryan arrives with his girlfriend, Brooke, and the trio work to fix Patch’s situation. But a storm is coming that cannot be quelled. On Dec. 26, 2004, waves of change will alter everything in their path — and change Ko Phi Phi forever.
John Shors’ Cross Currents is a hair-raising, memorable and atmospheric novel that transported me directly to Thailand. Most of us remember what happened on Dec. 26 — an earthquake in the Indian Ocean created devastating tsunamis that ripped through most countries bordering the sea. More than 230,000 people in 14 countries were killed, with Indonesia being the hardest hit.
But this isn’t just a book about the disaster. Every chapter — every page — brims with the certainty that something catastrophic is going to happen, but we’re so lost in the world of Lek, Sarai and their beloved children that we lose track of the thing we are to fear most. Patch, Ryan and Brooke’s stories ran seamlessly alongside those of the Ko Phi Phi residents, and I felt close to every character in this novel.
Shors’ writing is rich and detailed; readers can feel the sun and salty sea on their skin. I immediately bonded with Sarai and Lek’s plight, wondering how they could keep their business running in a time when there were too few tourists and far too many resorts. Suchin and Niran, their young children, captured my heart with their warmth and humor. Yai, the children’s grandmother, was also a source of amusement and kindness throughout the story.
Cross Currents worked best for me as a work of contemporary fiction exploring family dynamics — and there was certainly plenty to discuss with estranged brothers Patch and Ryan. For the most part, Ryan was a source of annoyance — but I think that was quite purposeful. While he seems selfish and self-righteous, his girlfriend Brooke is kind-hearted and easy going. They made an unlikely pair from the beginning, and I didn’t begrudge her changing feelings. While I found some of her interactions with Ryan unbelievable, especially toward the end, I was transfixed by the love story and pleased with the result.
So we’re reading along and loving every page, falling for these characters and the incredible setting in which it all plays out. But we know this is going to happen, so I found myself flipping ahead out of sheer anxiety. What would become of our family? To these tourists? I couldn’t stand the thought of destruction sweeping Ko Phi Phi clean, but I knew it was only a matter of time.
Our family saga does become a horror, and my chest seized with the knowledge that everything was changing. Shors’ book is less about the tsunami and more about the endurance of the human spirit, however, and that’s what kept me up until 1 a.m. on a work night: believing in these people and desperately needing to know that they would be all right.
Fans of contemporary and literary fiction who enjoy adventurous novels with a healthy dash of foreshadowing will also be transfixed by Cross Currents. After falling in love with Thailand through Shors’ eyes, it’s on my list of places to visit; the butterfly-shaped island that his characters call home totally enchanted me. After closing the last page, I took to the trusty Internet to Google Ko Phi Phi and watch way too many videos of the disaster, which left me with a cold feeling in my stomach. But as with all people, Ko Phi Phi rebuilt. The strong human spirit, through everything, persists.
4.5 out of 5!