iUniverse / 300 pages / 1st edition (August 19, 2000)
Chances are that when Papaya Myths hits the shelves, it will be marketed as “Women’s Fiction,” or “Contemporary Fiction,” or as, merely, “Mainstream.” Don’t you fall for the labels; this book defies such comfortable categorization to become more than the sum of those simple parts. Kimberly Scott has found a way to take a little science fiction, a bit of mystery and suspense, and a tale of lives past, and combine them into a narrative that flows like a river through deep, quiet pools into deadly white water. Dive in at the first chance.
Jocelyn Barkin Carney is looking at 85 in the middle of the 21st century. Granddaughter Sarlin is looking at college and looking for the history of her family. As Jocelyn recounts the story of her life in the 90s, we get a vivid picture of both eras. We also get the impact of the years between these settings. The stories run the gamut from amusing to heartbreaking, but they never once lose their hold over the reader.
Jocelyn’s voice brings to life the 10 years spent with the love of her life and the friends they loved and shared good and bad times with. It also evokes a frightening image of a world we may yet see. But the heart of Jocelyn’s reminiscences is Jordan, always Jordan, the husband she lost 50 years before.
The contrast between our world and the world of 2057 is sharp, but not in the cheesy, B-movie style of vintage science fiction films. The technology has changed, yes, but much less so than the perspective of those people in our future. There is an ocean of distance between teenaged Sarlin’s view of the commonplace and Jocelyn’s knowledge of the way circumstances were when she was young. It’s an evolution that Sarlin will never completely comprehend.
While Jocelyn is reliving the past for her granddaughter, there is a distinct feeling that she is holding something back. At the same time, there is a very active danger that threatens Jocelyn and her family.
The combination of the secrets from the past and the unknown menace of the present is an engrossing mixture. Unlike some novels which start out strong and falter midway, Papaya Myths will have you reading faster and faster, unable to break away until you know all the answers. As you near the end of the book, you will want to be able to read, uninterrupted, to the finish.
Scott thinks Papaya Myths may well be taken as a “chick book.” Well, that is one of the genders that will appreciate it, but a book with so much to offer won’t be pigeonholed so easily.
Whatever they label it, wherever they choose to shelve it, rest assured that this novel will break through to be heard. Find it and do your part to splinter the artificial barriers that lock books into one rigid category. Stunning fiction doesn’t need a classification.