ORDER A COPY: The Conch Republic
Publisher: self published
Publishing Date: October 5, 2010
eBook: 262 pages
Rating: 4 stars
The Conch Republic was an entry in the Amazon Breakout Novel Awards contest of 2008. As an ABNA semi-finalist that year, The Conch Republic was reviewed by Publishers Weekly.
Curt Randall has always lived his life responsibly. From the time he was little, he lived his life by one credo, one maxim that served as the guiding principle for his every move.
“You have to do what you have to do.”
He secretly longed to be irresponsible, beholden to nobody. When Curt’s rich uncle died and bequeathed $5,000,000 to his favorite nephew, Curt seized his opportunity. He quit his job and bought a house in Key West, where early-retirement, libations, and sunsets awaited.
All was going according to plan until Curt met her. She is a New Age disciple who goes by the astral name, Rain. Rain dropped into Curt’s life and turned it upside down. At first, Rain complimented the lifestyle Curt was chasing, but their story does not have a happy ending. After Rain evaporated from Curt’s life, he found himself questioning why he had moved to Key West to begin with. Was irresponsibility what he really craved? Curt had also befriended Beth Sanders, a single mother who traveled a hard road in life before she ended up in Key West. When tragedy struck her family, Curt stepped up to help her and finally found what he was looking for. The Conch Republic is a story about a man who went to Key West searching for nothing, only to find everything.
We have all wished to win the lottery or inherit a fortune from some distant rich relative in the hopes that we will then be able to kick back with no more responsibilities and do nothing but just enjoy the sunsets. This story grabs that idea and shows us that early retirement and that life of pure leisure isn’t necessary the dream we all think it will be.
In The Conch Republic, Eric Campbell has almost a Stephen King type narration to the story and I had to keep reminding myself that this was Key West, not Durma Key, and there would be no monster hiding under the pier.
We follow Curt Randall from his boring life and job in New Jersey before his inheritance of $5 million dollars from his uncle, on his road trip down to Key West, Florida, where he will take up residence at the southern most point of the United States, where Curt plans to retire young and do nothing. Although I don’t remember any mention of age, I got the impression that Curt was only in his early to mid-thirties.
Upon his arrival at his new home in Key West, he takes a stroll about town and stops at a bar called No Cares Atoll owned by Jimmy Barffert. No Cares Atoll becomes almost its own character in the story as we spend a lot of time there with Curt and Jimmy.
Curt meets Rain shortly after arriving and her new age lifestyle works well with his new determination to do nothing, but eventually Curt meets Jimmy’s niece Beth, and her son, who has just left an abusive marriage, and he finds more in the hard working, single mother and her determination to give her son a good life then in the new-age Rain.
The story and the characters were well written, and the story was quite entertaining. It lacked a little excitement or maybe that simply was the basis of the story itself, that a life of doing nothing, brings you no stress, but ultimately brings you no excitement either, and the lesson we learn along with Curt is that the greatest goal is life is not to remove yourself from it, but to find something that is worth working for.
Received copy from the author. Thank you.
“…The Conch Republic. What is that a reference to?”
“The Conch Republic. Now there is a story that defines the Spirit of the Keys.”
“The Spirit of the Keys.”
“Yep. The spirit I refer to is one of independence coupled with irreverence. Let’s face it. When you live at the end of the line, you—that is the community—learns a little self-reliance and a little humor.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand, Jimmy.”
“Back in April, 1982, the U.S. Border Patrol set up a border checkpoint at the Last Chance Saloon in Florida City. They were looking for illegal aliens that might be hiding in cars coming out of the Keys. As you might imagine, the traffic jams were horrendous, and not just for folks leaving, but for folks coming in. Tourists, grocery trucks, you name it. Commerce was brought to a virtual standstill. Finally, Mayor Dennis Wardlow and company flew to Miami to seek redress through the courts. They did not succeed, and so they decided to secede.”
“Secede? As in leave the country?”
“Exactly! The motto I remember went something like this: We secede where others have failed.. As I said—independence coupled with irreverence. That is how the idea of The Conch Republic flag was raised, and then our fair republic declared war on the United States. The Republic promptly surrendered and demanded foreign aid, which we are still waiting for. The roadblock quickly disappeared after the media broadcasted these shenanigans. However, we still celebrate our independence each April. Long live The Conch Republic.”