Reading the first paragraph of Continental Drift, I was simultaneously struck by three insights: one that this would be a story of immensely tragic proportions; two, that it would be brilliantly written; and, three, that it would be an intelligent, demanding book. The first few sentences were so overwhelming, I wanted to call up my friends and say: listen to this…
Incredibly, Continental Drift exceeded my initial expectations. The novel begins with the story of Bob Dubois, a disaffected 30-year-old oil heater repairman from New Hampshire who aches for better prospects but sees no hope of anything changing. “We have a good life,” his wife tells him but Bob doesn’t believe her. He wants to trade his lackluster existence and dingy duplex for a shiny piece of the American dream; so, prompted by his fast-talking brother who brags of sun-drenched riches, Bob packs up the wife and two daughters, with a third child on the way, and heads to Florida, where he believes success and wealth are waiting to plucked like ripe oranges under the southern sun.
Of course, the brother is not to be trusted and almost immediately Bob starts drifting toward disaster. At the same time that his life is unraveling, a Haitian woman named Vanise nurtures her own private dreams of the better life in the emerald city of Miami.
Just as we tracked Bob and his family down the interstate from New England, we ride the waves with Vanise to American soil where her path eventually crosses and clashes with his. Two visions. Two dreams. Two tragedies. Continental Drift is a story of a man who loses sight of what matters and of others who simply run out of luck despite their best efforts to overcome relentless adversity.
As with life, the novel is a monumental tale of many losers and very few winners.