Gone to Drift


“I remember when we used to sit

In the government yard in Trenchtown

Oba, observing the hypocrites

As they would mingle with the good people we meet

Good friends we have had

Oh, good friends we’ve lost along the way

In this bright future you can’t forget your past

So dry your tears I say”

-- Bob Marley, “No Woman No Cry” 1974


“The most daunting thing about the trip to the Pedro Cays was the possibility of missing them entirely in the dark, the five hours becoming six and then seven and then eight. Then, as the dawn turned the black sea gray and then navy blue, there would be no sign of the turquoise water of the Pedro Bank rising from the seafloor, no sign of three small cays in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. There would be the awful knowledge that the next stop was the coast of South America, that gas would soon run out and the boat would be at the mercy of the sea, spinning and wallowing like a coconut, taken south and west.

A man who missed the Cays would eat the raw and rotting fish in his bait bucket until it was done, he would vomit until all he had left was dry heaves and cramps, he would take tiny sips of the warm water in his plastic bottle, and he would pray for rain, for clouds, for anything to dim the sun, and he would stare at the water level in the bottle going down and down. It happened once or twice a year--Jamaican fishers would be found by foreign boats, starving and dehydrated, sometimes driven mad by exposure and hopelessness, by the sight of the endless sea and by the possibility of food fish under the hull of the boat, but too deep, too speedy to be caught.”

Lloyd Saunders’ paternal grandfather Maas Conrad is the closest person in the world to him, the twelve year-old’s sanctuary from his hard and hard-drinking, part-time father. Lloyd was barely toddling when he first went to sea with his grandfather, an ecologically-enlightened line fisher from a long line of Jamaican fishermen.

Maas Conrad left for the Cays, sixty miles southwest of Kingston, on Sunday night. On Tuesday, he called from Pedro to say he’d be heading back early Thursday. But he never arrived back in Kingston, and his cellphone is either dead or gone. What has befallen Lloyd’s grandfather?

GONE TO DRIFT alternates between Lloyd, who is desperately seeking to find out what  happened to his beloved grandfather, and Maas Conrad who is trying to survive on a rock in the middle of the sea. There he reminisces about a distant time when his brother Luke went missing during a trip to the Pedro Bank, and gradually reveals how he’s come to be stuck on the rock.

He’d long ago sworn to never return to the Cays. Why has he gone there now?

Page after page, action is interwoven with exceptionally rich description. Readers can taste the salt, feel the itch of dried scales on their forearms, hear the laughing dolphins, mourn for the now-polluted and depleted sea, and empathize with the swelling population of impoverished people. The language is luscious, with Lloyd’s parts of the story being told in the rich Jamaican dialect.

Part gripping mystery, part survival tale, and part stellar coming-of-age story, GONE TO DRIFT immerses readers in the culture, history, and troubles of present-day Jamaica.

272 pages                   978-0062672964                     Ages 8-12

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

See more of his recommendations:  http://richiespicks.pbworks.com


Gone to Drift tells the story of a 12-year-old Jamaican boy, Lloyd, and his search for his beloved grandfather, Maas Conrad, a fisherman who is lost at sea. Lloyd suspects that his grandfather has witnessed an illegal capture of dolphins for the tourist trade and that he has come to harm. Interspersed with Lloyd's quest on land and sea is a second voice - of Maas Conrad himself, who, unknown to Lloyd is alive; marooned on a rock, he describes his life growing up in a rural fishing village in a long-gone era. Gone to Drift is an exciting adventure story about a boy confronted with difficult moral choices.--from the publisher

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