Monday, August 26, 2013

The Prodigal by Michael Hurley

Aidan Sharpe is one of the best lawyers in Raleigh.  When opposing counsel walk in and see him behind the defendant's desk, their hearts sink, as Sharpe has the ability to make juries see things as he does and rarely loses a case.  He is the primary practicing partner at one of the most respected law firms, and is highly compensated.  Life is his for the taking.

But things are not going as well as they seem.  His marriage fell apart a few years ago and he has been hesitant to form another relationship.  Trials are too easy these days and he is starting to phone it in.  His drinking is getting out of control.  Then comes the ultimate moment; one moment when a bad choice takes away everything he has worked for all these years.

Stunned, he flees to Ocracoke Island, the most remote island on the North Carolina Outer Banks.  It takes a lot to live on Ocracoke, and those who manage to survive there are not too quick to worry about other people's sins or judge them too quickly.  Aiden moves in with the priest who has watched over the island for years and starts to rebuild his life.  He spends his days now doing manual labor at the local boatyard, his friends a collection of other individuals who are also looking for a way to survive.

There is Father Marcus, who was shipped to Ocracoke for his deviations from church theology and his personal issues.  Ibrahim is fleeing from his past, but the best ship worker Ocracoke has seen in years.  Bobbi is fleeing a bad marriage and her addiction to alcohol and men.  Molly is a tugboat captain, determined to make it in a man's world.  Sarah is, well no one is sure what Sarah is.  She washed up on shore nude several years ago.  Father Marcus watches over her, but she remains a remote figure who speaks to few and is closer to fewer. 

Together this group of individuals learn to support each other and work towards finding redemption.  That redemption may come from a surprising source.  They discover a sailboat floating as scavenged goods; it has apparently been floating in the ocean for several years.  It is an amazing boat, obviously an ancient one built with care and love.  Is it the mystical Prodigal that is the source of so many legends over the years and can it help this group find themselves as they attempt to win a race that means everything?  The race is small against large, islanders against those with money and power, a race to prove that character means something even in boat races.

Michael Hurley has written a fascinating look at the issue of flaws and redemption.  Ocracoke Island is the perfect setting for the characters to find themselves; the land itself has to rediscover and reclaim itself all the time as the ocean attempts to overwhelm it.  Readers from the South will be especially pleased to read about this North Carolina treasure.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those interested in the chance to start anew, regardless of what has come before.  Hurley lives in Raleigh, NC, and is quickly on the way to becoming another North Carolina treasure. 

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