"Perhaps you picked up this book because of the sensation surrounding my trial. Yet, you must have wanted more than sensation or you would have thrown it aside before now. If you continued to read, it was because in this hasty and incomplete account, I told you something that at some level of your being, you already know. Something you know as an echo, as a glimpse in a dream or as a fragile hope you are ashamed to voice."
Ideas. They are fantastic things, and a great idea usually can lead to a terrific novel. Sometimes an idea is enough: a metaphysical philosophy aroused from the Jungian collective unconscious, soaked through formulated sentences and phrases, ordered into paragraphs, and eventually pages then chapters, resulting in a book. And then, sometimes it is not enough, when a writer is just not up to the task at hand. And it isn't necessarily the novelist's fault, ambition is often (as I've said) enough to make things work.
Unfortunately this is not the case with Dorothy Bryant's 1971 novel, The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You. All the elements of a fantastical success are here: we are introduced to our "park bench" character, the narcissistic, abusive narrator-- a successful male novelist with a temper problem, in need of either being erased or turning around, full-circle. After possibly killing his girlfriend, he makes a run for it and in the process crashes his car off of a cliff.
He wakes in a strange world, apparently an island with indigenous people living life nagdeo. Nagdeo is THE DREAM, as in living the dream. What is the dream? Kindness. Compatibility. Permissiveness. The aborigines have their own language, composed of many recognizable human languages that the narrator slowly begins to decode. He falls in love with a dark skinned girl that he once had raped. Things begin to change...
"You have only to want It, to believe in It, and tonight, when you close your eyes, you can begin your journey."
If this sounds like a good novel to you, it comes as no surprise. But if only the author was competent enough to weave all these things together without distancing the reader. I don't give a damn about the narrator's transition. He's still always an asshole, and the flaw is almost all weighted in the first-person narrative. The book shrugs off drugs as a valid means of questing for inner truths as easily as it shrugs off its breezy narrative--lacking depth, intensity, and most of all--nagdeo!--the very thing that the book uses as its central theme is not exhibited by the author in their presentation of the book.
So, while the cover of the original publication may be enticing in its psychedelic hues of warm reds and oranges, the depiction of a beautiful tree growing amidst fungi and bubbles & butterflies--it never lives up to its aspirations.
I have not read any other Dorothy Bryant books, but I see that she has also written a book called Writing a Novel--a book I will not read for obvious reasons. The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You was originally published as The Comforter by Moon Books. A more recent edition was repressed by Random House. Read something else instead.
"...and the Comforter...
shall teach you all things
and bring all things
to your remembrance."