Dash in the Blue Pacific, by Cole Alpaugh
A guy from Vermont crashes in a tropical paradise ruled by angry gods. It’s a long way home.
Dash in the Blue Pacific (256 pages) is Cole Alpaugh’s fourth novel. A lone survivor of a plane crash in the South Pacific is held captive by a tribe of shabby natives. As he heals, Dash learns what it truly means to belong to the human race.
As in Alpaugh’s first two novels, Dash in the Blue Pacific contains elements of magical realism.
Alpaugh’s third novel, The Spy’s Little Zonbi, and his second, The Turtle-Girl from East Pukapuka, were finalists in the 2014 and 2013 Foreword Book of the Year Awards, respectively. Alpaugh’s first book, The Bear in a Muddy Tutu, set in a ragtag traveling circus, garnered eleven five-star reviews on WorldCat.
“The weird parts work because Alpaugh integrates them into a story that is physically raw and wickedly funny. Dash is as incredulous about all that is happening as anyone, and his self-conscious skepticism keeps the magical elements from seeming off-the-wall. Little by little, Dash’s conversations with Willy reveal Dash’s deeper emotional wounds, and offer another interpretation for his dreamlike visions. Taken simply as a comic adventure story, Dash in the Blue Pacific is thoroughly entertaining. When you consider the other elements—racial tensions, human grief, and spiritual redemption—it takes on new levels of meaning. Book clubs will be talking about this one.” Read more….
—Sheila M. Trask, ForeWord Magazine
“Cole Alpaugh is a grand comedian, and the conflicts and themes which exist in uncharted territory for traditional novels work well with his droll craft. The novel is full of magical wonders, melancholic gods, invasive spiders, and hilarious blunders from both Dash and the natives. ‘Boring’ and ‘predictable’ would be the last two words you’d use to describe Alpaugh’s novel.” Read more….
— D. A. Wetherell, Necessary Fiction
“Cole Alpaugh provides another fascinating read with Dash in the Blue Pacific. A young man is the lone survivor of a harrowing plane crash. His life to date has been a series of hard luck events, and now he is facing the prospect of human sacrifice if he cannot impregnate a local in order to bribe slave traders. This is why I read Alpaugh’s books! I was reminded of Paul Theroux’s Mosquito Coast, with its beautiful descriptions of brutal nature, and the impending sense of doom. I am also reminded of the relationship between the main characters of Richard Bach’s Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. My head was spinning as I came to the end of this book, and I was also in tears. The despondent god Dash befriends is a wonderfully constructed character who challenges the reader’s belief system. This is a relatively quick story, although with its many levels, it begs to be read more than once. Dash in the Blue Pacific is laugh-out-loud funny as much as it is raw and disturbing. Even though I’ve compared this book to two others, it is truly a one-of-a-kind literary experience. I highly recommend it for book club reading.”
—Jennifer Wong, Toronto Public Library
Dash does not feel lucky. When his plane crashes in the South Pacific on a honeymoon flight to Sydney, Australia, he is already a broken man, having left his cheating fiancée at home in Vermont. Dash is the crash’s only survivor, and the natives who find his battered body blame him for poisoning their fish with spilled jet fuel. Once he has sufficiently recovered, they plan to offer him as a human sacrifice to their Volcano God, who they believe downed his plane and cursed them with drought and hardship.
While Dash awaits his fate, he abandons all hope of rescue. But his new life has its moments. He meets ten-year-old Tiki, daughter of the chief and an innocent who dreams of being “chosen” by the soldiers who occasionally visit their island. He also conjures up an imaginary friend, Weeleekonawahulahoopa—Willy, for short. Willy is half-man, half-fish, a sometime god who resigned his lofty status after failing to save his people from drowning.
As Dash comes to understand the natives who hold him captive and confront his own unhappy past, he suspects that he might not be so unlucky after all.
Says Alpaugh, “This has been my favorite story to write—a little quirky and a little dark. The main (human) character is a well-meaning, ordinary guy whose plane crashes into what seems to be a tropical paradise. I drew on my experience as a total outsider while working overseas, where fear and uncertainty heighten senses and can lead you to make bad decisions. Dash’s journey toward atonement is eased by fellow travelers he meets along the way. A big chunk of this story came together while I was standing on a section of lava very similar to the one described in the book. Ka Lae, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is the southern-most tip of America, on the most remote island chain on the planet. I wanted to capture the feeling of finding hope while looking out at thousands of miles of vast nothingness.”
Cole Alpaugh is a former journalist, having worked at daily newspapers along the East Coast, as well as spending several years as a war correspondent in numerous hot-spots around the world for Manhattan-based news agencies. His work has appeared in dozens of magazines, as well as most newspapers in America. Cole is currently a freelance photographer and writer living in Northeast Pennsylvania, where he spends his afternoons watching his daughter hit fuzzy yellow balls and ski through slalom gates. Click here to find him online.
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