Rattle - A novel by JP Paul
“Rattle” is a novel by JP Paul. The author comes out swinging in a feisty, well-paced dramedy centered upon the extended Proctar family of south Florida.
Two distinct plot lines (one based in the Okeechobee agricultural reserve west of affluent Palm Beach, the other in the rural hills of Jamaica) intertwine as the protagonists struggle with conflicting family priorities and ominous external interests. One quaint community is engulfed by a corporate expansion. The other is strangled by a local drug lord just as the villagers begin to show promise. To Max Proctar, the takeovers are not worlds apart. They in fact are surprisingly similar.
Paul's street cred as an international journalist provides the backbone for this novel. An observant person who has walked the tough yards, his fictional characters are raw and plausibly imperfect, neither heroes nor villians. They often puzzle and always push. Socio-cultural gaps spark disparate reactions. While some situations disturb, they are managed with sensitivity and in many cases with appropriate humor.
Goodwill often comes from people and circumstances when we least expect it. Preconceptions are best left on the night table when reading Rattle since one never knows from where the next favor or roadblock will arise. Tension is perpetuated as desires collide, especially where compromise is not an option and logical solutions are rarely chosen. The book explores the decisions we make through all stages of life. Just when we feel we have everything controlled, we are forced to negotiate additional discordant tangents. Rattle speaks at length about the crippling effects of frustration, familial obigations and perceived injustices that paralayze our best intentions long before they stimulate progress. Procrastinators neither win nor lose, they are simply cast aside, discarded abruptly in a startlingly accurate depiction of the unforgiving pace of the 21st century.
JP Paul goes all in with sub-themes including corporate skullduggery, the opaque and unregulated visual art market, colonial caste systems, global education and ecological nightmares. These themes clearly matter to the author but they never swamp an entertaining story. Indeed, you can breeze through this story in a sitting or three. Such is a style that is snappy and concise, a well-written quick meal from the artesanal deli. But there is so much more for the astute reader, a multi-course dinner to be digested slowly with a variety of complex flavors simmering below the surface. Therein lies the mastery of this book. The writer grants the reader choices. One can drill down for more details to savor the double entendres and turns of phrase while engaging the social discourse. Or the reader can barrel forward at breakneck speeds toward the thrilling final sections to see what happens to your favorite characters, most of whom become more huggable and cheer-worthy as the story lines progress.
The intrigue of reading Rattle lies in the matrice of dichotomies JP Paul constructs in all of his work. The twin plot lines rattle against one another but are indeed just one. His dueling voices become crystal clear midway through the book. One is brash, confident with a controlled wit that never stoops to mere cynicism. The other is reserved and concerned, emotions are pondered with none of the sap of cheap romance. Rattle is not a big picture statement piece that might leave readers discontent depending on their viewpoints. Like all of his work, JP Paul opens the door for contemplation, he provides a window from which to observe and gather seeds. The humor is sharp, not slapstick. The suspense is geniune, never contrived. Rattle is a fluid page turner written in a cleverly accessible form that at times reads poetic, others blunt and rawly emotive. Rarely are novels able to appease both the commercial and literary camps so effectively.