The subtitle of this book is "A Novel of Ceylon," and Ceylon is as much of a character in this story as Henry, the uptown bon vivant who takes to the open sea looking for redemption and lands on the shores of Ceylon with an empty and yearning heart and a very open mind.
In 1936 long ocean voyages were not enjoyed lightly --- indeed, there had to be a serious amount of cash and a more-than-poetic desire to see the world behind such a journey. Henry comes looking for something, he doesn't know what, and finds, instead, a Buddhist world that welcomes him with open arms (the sequence where Henry lands and is greeted by hundreds of similarly smocked monks is Leanesque in its cinematic description). Along the way, he meets with a wide variety of strange and provocative people --- all of whom, like Henry, believe that there is more to life than money and social standing.
In between reveries about Henry's lost home, Meidav peppers her plot with a healthy dose of the travelogue --- the Travel & Leisure variety, the kind where you learn as much about the place and history as you do about the cuisine, the culture, the spiritual leanings, and of course, the beaches and the color of the water. Meidav spent years researching the book during her term as a Fulbright fellow in Sri Lanka, where she studied dance and language. Language is at the heart of the book --- not only in the way that each person expresses themselves, but also the way that man converses with the elements, the great powers of Nature, during the search for the hot core of individual spirituality. Soul is something Meidav doesn't lack, even when saddled with the vernacular of the time in Henry's clipped Yankee tones. THE FAR FIELD is a complex and interesting epic story about one man's search for something bigger than himself. It successfully grabs us and takes us for a ride alongside Henry into the far reaches of a world that few of us will ever experience. A captivating adventure.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on April 7, 2001
The Far Field: A Novel of Ceylon