But This Is Different
On 1978 New Year’s Eve, on the dock on a tiny South Pacific island, sweaty islanders struggle to start an old aircraft engine installed on a fishing boat. An 80-year-old American woman boards the vessel and, following her adjustments, the engine roars to life. The islanders call her Mere – Star of the Sea – for she came to live with them 40 years ago. The boat sails to a bigger island to pick up a large crate full of gifts for the islanders, sent annually by another American lady, Pilapan (Mother Chief), who’d arrived before Mere, but returned some years ago. Among the donations is a letter for Mere from Pilapan. She writes: “…I want you…but this is different…I am dying.” Also included is a fake passport and money. While Mere is undecided, the native chief, who calls her Amelia, insists she go. While saying bon voyage, the chief presses in Mere’s hand an old small tin box for Pilapan.
Mary Baron has concocted a unique take on the mystery of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart by weaving a lesbian love theme into the speculation. Although there are lighter moments in the story, such as when Mere encounters new technological developments and some misadventures during her journey, the writing is poetic and literary. Mere’s emotions and despair at broken promises are portrayed lucidly; despite the hardships she is determined in her quest. While the conclusion drags, a wonderful surprise awaits in the finale, providing a thrilling and emotional experience for readers. Recommended.