Both Feet in Paradise by Andy Southall
Updated: May 19
In the acknowledgements section of the book is an entry for the people of Samoa, where the writer spent some time in 2017, and it is well acknowledged. The local knowledge and the insight that Southall brings to the novel is rich and tangible. There is clearly a deep seated love for the small island nation and it resonates throughout the novel.
From the start of the book the story is one filled with intrigue. Who is this protagonist, Adam, and why does he find himself in this familiar, and yet foreign world of Samoa. The revealing of information across the novel really does keep you hooked throughout.
The setting of Samoa is stretched across the two islands of Upolu and Savai’i and both explored with their equally resplendent beauty and the range of wildlife in fauna and flora. This backdrop provides the perfect canvas for a New Zealander to find themselves feeling lost and fairly uniquely alone.
Adam needs to return to his family in New Zealand. And by needs it really must be the italicised emphatic version. The man is single minded and remains so for the majority of the text. Throughout his adventures and misadventures he comes into contact with Eve - an seemingly unknown woman to Adam who has the ability to placate him, and to support him out of the generosity of her own heart. Or so it seems.
Things for Adam seem to take turn after turn against him and his mission to return to his wife and ill child. Eve appears to know more about him than he knows about himself, and increasingly he comes across issues that seem incongruent to his situation. The telling of the story from Adam’s perspective provides the reader with an insight into the working mind of Adam and creates mystique around his trials and tribulations. Nothing, no ferries, no flights and no phones seem to be working for him.
Religious iconography features quite heavily throughout the novel largely through references to the various churches and prayers but is entirely appropriate considering the context of life of Samoa - a deeply Christian country - and certainly does not detract from the overall narration.
The unravelling of Adam’s situation and the deep struggles he has trying to make others see the world as he sees it is a really impressive piece of storytelling. It is one of those books that will resonate with many and take you on a journey both on the pages, and off.
Reviewer: Chris Reed
The Cuba Press