The Island of Always
Time Being Media, LLC (2019)
Reviewed by Jeffrey Massey for Reader Views (1/19)
The latest novel by playwright Stephen Evans, “The Island of Always,” is a magical journey through time and space that ask the reader to take a critical look at the fine line separating “what is right, from what is possible.” Instead of a moral diatribe about the ill station of modern life, Mr. Evans uses whimsical humor along with a good dose of satire to make his points. What he has created is a superb novel that is at once humorous, absurd and completely serious; a gem of a book that will bring a smile to your face while simultaneously tugging at your heart.
The story begins with the main character Nicholas “Nick” Ward, a brilliant attorney who no longer practices law, being admitted to a Psychiatric Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, (the setting for the story) for reasons of a court ordered mental evaluation. Nick Ward, along with his constant sidekick, a gray and white sheepdog puppet named Sancho, had just filled the mayor’s swimming pool with hundreds of live lobsters, and then called a press conference at which Nick highlighted the plight of lobsters using all manner of legal precedent. The fact that Nick’s reasoning is taken so seriously by so many sets the tone for the book, while introducing the reader to Mr. Evans’ form of satire and humor.
Seems that Nick Ward is a man followed by chaos, but he never seems to recognize the disruptive nature of his actions. His doctors say he is delusional, while simultaneously admitting that he seems perfectly normal in every way. To those around him, he seems to be a good-natured savant content on saving the world.
Enter Lena Grant, Nick’s ex-wife who still loves him deeply. She also is a very competent attorney, practical in every way and seemingly the only thing standing between Nick and a long-term commitment to an actual insane asylum. The story then settles into comfortable narrative about Nick and Lena with plenty of other characters along for the ride. The juxtaposition of Nick and the “sane world” becomes the paradox of the human condition that almost everyone struggles with for the entirety of their lives. Nick is the character of big ideas while Lena wears the boots that hit the ground. All of this summed up by the doctor charged with his evaluation who asked Nick if Sancho was real, to which Nick responds, “what is real?”
Mr. Evans has crafted a wonderful novel full of bright and interesting characters. He uses conversation in a superb way, limiting physical description to a minimum while still making the characters exceptionally dynamic through their actions. His humor can be dry at times, so you have to pay attention, and his writing reminds me a great deal of Tom Robbins, and his unforgettable characters from Still Life with Woodpecker and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. Nick even leans a bit towards Peter Sellers’ great role as Mr. Gardner in the film Being There had that character been a bit more calculated.
A delightful read from beginning to end, I look forward to the next novel from Mr. Evans and would recommend “The Island of Always” to any reader that enjoys a great satire.