While reading The Land of Look Behind, by Aaron Blaylock, I found myself holding my breath often, and fighting the increasing flutter of butterflies in my stomach. It was a book where I anxiously awaited what would happen next. I never knew what would happen, and was surprised over and over again.
The book follows two story lines – the first of British Major Benjamin Jarvis in Jamaica 300 years ago. The second is of modern-day Gideon Goodwin, an LDS returned missionary who served in Jamaica not long ago. He had brought home a journal belonging to Major Jarvis. His story captivated Gideon, leading him to investigate a strange symbol he found in the journal.
Both stories were equally captivating, jaw-dropping, and full of danger, with much-needed humor sprinkled throughout, thanks to Jarvis’s pirate friend, John Davis, and Gideon’s best friend, Todd.
Ben Jarvis and Gideon were two different people with very different backgrounds, but both were upstanding men of moral character and courage. They usually did what was right even when it would have been more convenient to take an easier, more cowardly, less compassionate route. I love books where there are people you can respect and admire for their integrity. They each had loyal friends by their sides during their similar treks to search for a cave filled with alleged treasure.
In both stories, though, there were many other characters whose allegiances were not clear. In The Land of Look Behind, there were never clear “good guys” and “bad guys.” The motivations and loyalties of individuals varied greatly, and kept you guessing. There were many twists and turns. The author did a splendid job of illustrating the fear, worry, confusion, and inner struggles of Jarvis and Gideon during respective journeys. They both ignored doubt, and clung to hope, though, and that meant a lot to me as a reader.
This book is quite long, and takes delicacy to read. There is a multitude of history interwoven, as well as Jamaican culture, vernacular, and beautiful descriptions of the island landscape. I would bounce back and forth between wishing I could visit the island, to being really content never visiting.
That being said, I always felt a distinct reverence when Gideon would walk, climb, enter or experience some of the same places that Jarvis had 300 years earlier. It brought an excitement to my heart, and truly connected the two characters.
I was surprised at first by the presence of the supernatural in the book. It was more abundant in Gideon’s story, and offers a dramatic and suspenseful flair.
I was also impressed by the symbolism of light and darkness throughout the novel. There were many beautiful gospel messages in the book, and both main characters relied on God for strength. My favorite quote from the book was from the mind of Jarvis:
It was a humbling experience to cede control of your destiny to another and a strangely liberating one. For that instant, he no longer felt the burden of his own struggle for life. His task was simple, follow the light and live, all other pursuits and ambitions were meaningless by comparison.
So, I loved almost everything about the book except:
- There were many spelling and grammatical errors
- I wish we had gotten one last chapter from Jarvis about his decision to stay in Jamaica and how he decided to lead the rest of his life.
- I hated the ending of the book. The decision that Gideon made didn’t feel right to me, especially after all the danger, wickedness, and turmoil he went through. That was the only part of the story that didn’t flow for me or make sense. I wonder if anyone else feels that way…
Overall, I highly recommend this book. It is at times violent and graphic, but the physical and spiritual journeys and discoveries are priceless. The characters are memorable, and the book will captivate you from beginning to end. Well done, Aaron Blaylock!
*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
About the book:
When Gideon, a former missionary, discovers a mysterious drawing tucked in an ancient journal he returns to Jamaica with dreams of finding a centuries old treasure. He quickly discovers there are those who would kill to keep the treasure secret. This thrilling adventure takes you deep into Jamaica’s treacherous cockpit country and back in time for a spine-tingling mystery you won’t be able to put down.
About the author:
Born and raised in Arizona, Aaron is proud to call the desert home. He came of age in the suburbs of Sacramento, California and as a missionary in Jamaica, where he fell in love with the people and their culture, but he has always been drawn back to the valley of the sun. He married his childhood crush, and the girl of his dreams, in 2001. Together they are raising four beautiful and rambunctious children. He worked as a freelance sports reporter for The Arizona Republic for nearly ten years, combining his love of writing and sports. In his storytelling he draws heavily on his love of history, adventure, his faith and his own life experiences.