The Gulf

The Gulf

by Belle Boggs

Overview: Marianne is in a slump: barely able to support herself by teaching, not making progress on her poetry, about to lose her Brooklyn apartment. When her novelist ex-fiancé, Eric, and his venture capitalist brother, Mark, offer her a job directing a low-residency school for Christian writers at a motel they’ve inherited on Florida’s Gulf Coast, she can’t come up with a reason to say no.

The Genesis Inspirational Writing Ranch is born, and liberal, atheist Marianne is soon knee-deep in applications from writers whose political and religious beliefs she has always opposed but whose money she’s glad to take. Janine is a schoolteacher whose heartfelt poems explore the final days of Terri Schiavo’s life. Davonte is a former R&B superstar who hopes to reboot his career with a bestselling tale of excess and redemption. Lorraine and Tom, eccentric writers in need of paying jobs, join the Ranch as instructors.

Mark finds an investor in God’s Word God’s World, a business that develops for-profit schools for the Christian market, but the conditions that come along with their support become increasingly problematic, especially as Marianne grows closer to the students. As unsavory allegations mount, a hurricane bears down on the Ranch, and Marianne is faced with the consequences of her decisions.

With sharp humor and deep empathy, The Gulf is a memorable debut novel in which Belle Boggs plumbs the troubled waters dividing America.

Deanna Boe (04/25/19) It isn’t very often I don’t finish a book that I begin, but this was one of them. On the cover of the book it says: “A smart, funny, and hugely entertaining tale about the gulf between expectation and reality, integrity and profit, and faith and uncertainty.” What can I say? I didn’t see it as very funny or hugely entertaining. It seemed to drag from the very start, after reading over half I finally gave up. I did read the last few pages out of curiosity, but it gave me the same flat feeling I had through much of what I had read.

You have a young lady, Marianne, living in New York City, who can hardly survive financially teaching, when she discovers that her apartment is about to go condo. Either she buys it or moves out. At this same time her ex-finance, Eric, and his risk taking, capitalist brother approach her about heading up a writing school for Christian poetry in Florida. It seems they have an aunt who owns a rundown motel near Sarasota that they feel could be turned into a writing school but the aunt specifies it must be for Christians. They convince Marianne that it sounds exactly right down her alley; after all, poetry is her main love. Since she is about to be homeless, why not? The only real hang-up is the fact she is an agnostic, hardly one who should be heading up a Christian poetry workshop! Unfortunately while she heads to Florida, Eric is off to the Middle East to teach, so she is on her own to accomplish all of this. Months later, before the first group is to begin, Eric returns, or after 1/3 of the long, drawn-out book. Next we find out that the hot shot brother, Mark, who is suppose to be so great with money tells them they are broke. Now what? The first class of students has appeared and they are busy complaining about the teaching, food, rooms etc. We are now introduced to a Christian group who comes along to “save the operation” but it is very confusing as to what the group really is. The storyline continues to drag out until I finally skip to the end where I find out Marianne has returned to New York and guess what? Her apartment is still amazingly available, it hadn’t become a condo. She has formed a close relationship with one of the students she had met in Florida who is available to “save” her. Save her how? Religion wise? Job wise? Boyfriend wise? Who knows and I guess I simply don’t care. Aren’t I terrible?
Rating: *

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