Herbert F. Hopkins has written a gem-dandy novel in fewer than 250 pages.
Top that, Stephen King, with your thousand-page tomes.
Okay, that’s not fair.
Stephen King is one of the best yarn-spinners on this planet and my heart goes zippity-do-dah whenever he releases a new novel.
But his books tend to be long, eh b’ys?
So, if Herbert Hopkins’ New Found Land is a diamond, then Stephen King’s — oh, say, The Stand — is a truckload of coal. Both are carbon, and without them life on this planet would be…well, different, tell your mammy.
That make a grain of sense?
I’ll take another kick at the cat, so to speak.
New Found Land is to The Old Man and the Sea, as The Stand is to The Grapes of Wrath.
Frig, that’s an even worse failure to squeeze out the thought wedged in my knuckle-knob noggin.
Why would I think of The Old Man and the Sea in connection with New Found Land?
Among other things, New Found Land is about a Cuban baseball player.
New Found Land is about drugs and addiction; about pain and pharmacology; about love and voodoo.
At the beginning of New Found Land Angéline LeBlanc falls out of bed in New Orleans — kinda.
In truth, she falls out of bed in Newfoundland because of a recurring, haunting dream about her past in New Orleans.
By the way, Angéline looks something like a former Governor General of Canada.
Nope, despite the name, not Roméo LeBlanc.
Rather, Michaëlle Jean, only younger.
Herb Hopkins doesn’t say that. He says Angeline has some Haitian blood in her veins. That’s all I need to think of Michaëlle Jean in the unlikely event that I’d be searching for someone with Haitian blood to play Angéline in a movie.
Whatever — both fine looking women, eh b’ys?
Okay, settle down.
New Found Land’s hero, Luke Delaney, suffers chronic pain because of an accident, and he’s addicted to prescription drugs, namely Oxy.
Enter Liliana Sanchez, a Cuban pharmacologist who defects in Gander and ends up working with Memorial University at The Battery, MUN’s facility stuck like a fig in a duff on the side of Signal Hill.
For Liliana, Newfoundland is exactly what its name implies, a New Found Land — a brave new world — where she can follow her quest for a place “on the other side of consciousness.”
Liliana meets Luke and sees him as the perfect guinea pig— albeit a guinea pig to whom she offers $20,000 — for her trial regarding “the invisible apothecary.”
Turn the page.
Liliana’s cousin Pedro, a Cuban baseball player who the Boston Red Sox sign as a closer, comes to visit the New Found Land. Because she once cured Pedro of a physical injury, Liliana seizes the opportunity to present Pedro as a living endorsement for the success of the treatment she’s offering Luke.
Now here’s the thing — Liliana believes the human body can overcome its own pain without the use of Big Pharma’s pills. But patients [?] can’t simply be told to suck it up and pain will dodge on out the door.
Patients — subjects? — must be codded into allowing brains to overcome pains.
Liliana doses Luke with magic pills. Dare I say, the treatment is kinda like voodoo? Or any religion for that matter. If you truly believe, miracles — magic — happens.
B’ys, this is getting way too complicated and prob’ly harder to grasp than to comprehend how compressed carbon becomes diamonds.
Close the book. Look at the cover. Mostly it’s a picture of an iceberg. What’s the single feature of icebergs we’ve all known since the first one we saw drifting across the cove?
There’s more beneath the surface than meets the eye: “Icebergs, man — they’s mo’ shit goin’ down below the shit line, know what I mean? Icebergs is like life, man.”
… that fine-looking woman, Angéline LeBlanc had a cousin Dudley, a famous relative who was a snake-oil salesman.
Snake-oil, an umbrella term for any tonic of questionable ingredients and dubious healing abilities.
Herbert F. Hopkins’ shimmering-carbon novel is ultimately about snake-oil — in the best sense.
Singer/songwriter Steve Earle suggests he knows about the effectiveness of remedies properly patented, or covertly concocted: “It’s snake-oil, y’all.”
Been around since the Devil was an oakum picker, eh b’ys?
Thank you for reading.
— Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at email@example.com.