after Charlie Jumper, the hero of Forever Island,
learns that the patch of swamp he has occupied in the Everglades for
sixty years is to be cleared to make room for a housing development, he
poles his ancient dugout deep into the swaying River of Grass. He gazes
into the peaceful sunset, surrounded by the natural beauty of his land,
and he thinks about the past:
. . . had seen the white man come into this land and slaughter the
egret for its feathers, shooting them only when nesting on the rookery,
killing them by the hundreds of thousands, and leaving the young either
to die in the nest or be eaten by vultures . . ., the water around the
mangroves turning red with blood; and he had seen the white man come
into this land and slaughter the alligator, shipping out their hides
fifty thousand at a time to be made into wallets and shoes . . .; and
he had seen the white man come with his mules and his curses and his
saws and his puffing trains and strip the land of the giant bald
cypress, cutting them down like fields of sugar care; and he had seen
the white man wipe out the tree snails so that their shells could be
sold as trinkets; and he had seen the white man dig the canals and
drain the land and come closer and closer until he was now here again,
once more telling the Seminole that he could not live on this land
because the white man wanted it. ~ Patrick Smith
This passage strikes the theme Forever Island.
It is about the encroachments of "civilization," in the form of the
white man's greed and rapacity, on one of the nation's last natural
strongholds, the Florida Everglades. The white man is the unrepentant
villain, with his utter disregard for anything except his own welfare,
his own profit, his own law.
has become the classic novel of the Everglades, evoking this haunting
landscape in Smith's straight-forward storytelling style.
is the novel that vaulted Patrick Smith to international fame as a
writer of fiction. Since it first appeared 14 years ago, it has been
published in 36 countries. Due to the success of this book in the
Soviet Union, Patrick and his wife were flown to Russia and given an
all expense paid trip through the USSR for two weeks. Smith
subsequently returned to Russia on another trip, followed by a trip to
Bulgaria, all as a result of this book's popularity. Now you have to
read it to find out why...
$14.95 Hardbound, 185 pages -
You can read the entire 1st chapter right now, for free. Click here.
A Book Review of Forever Island
Acclaimed Historical Novel Speaks Of Naples, Integrity And Spirituality
by Steven Skelley
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
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.
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.
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.
Reprinted from a column by Steven Skelley in the Naples Sun Times newspaper.