Larry McMurtry is on a voyage aboard the freighter Aranui carrying American and European passengers around French Polynesia, specifically the Marquesas Islands. He has left his elderly and dying mother back in Wichita Falls, Texas to write about the life of his parents, his own family, and his trip to the islands. For the first 50 pages he writes of their struggles, disappointments, failures and eventual separation after 40+ years, while adding gratuitous facts about the life of Paul Gauguin in Tahiti, his penchant for young native girls, sexually transmitted diseases, and morphine. Married during the Great Depression, the McMurtry's never ventured far from the land his father worked, fretting about the things needing to be done. His mother was a chronic worrier constantly thinking the worst in any situation would occur.
After the initial discourse on his parents and Gauguin, McMurtry weaves a new narrative about the journey to Tahiti and the neighboring islands into a disjointed work, You may wonder where the author is going as eventually the book evolves into an autobiographical journey of its author seeking paradise for himself and the other passengers who have quested for a place far from the struggles of ordinary life. Periodically, he adds information about famous voyagers who have found refuge in the embrace of the placid winds and bright blue waters of the South Pacific: Michener, Stevenson, London, Maugham, Cook, Melville, Heyerdahl, and Suggs.
This report prepared by David Fletcher