Nothing about twentieth century America pleases Allie Fox. This ingenious Harvard University dropout-turned-handyman is sickened by all he sees around him: fast food, pornography, drugs, pollution, television, violence, and shoddy, overpriced merchandise. Through the eyes of his thirteen-year old son Charlie, the novel’s narrator, readers realize that if the world would only run according to this self-taught Yankee engineer’s parameters and specifications, everything would be perfect. In Father’s estimation, America is going belly-up—the end of the world is nigh—and he is bound and determined to save his family.
Without warning, Father takes his four children and their mother from their home in rural Massachusetts to a ship in Baltimore’s harbor. By the time they arrive at Jeronimo, Honduras, a remote upriver town he buys, Father has convinced them that America will be destroyed by war and that they can never go home again. Here, in a godlike fashion, Father, a present-day Robinson Crusoe, dazzles the natives and reigns supreme, creating order out of chaos. An efficiently functioning farm, houses, sidewalks, barns—all designed by Father—and abundant crops sprout up overnight. He miraculously controls the elements by creating Fat Boy, a gigantic contraption that spews out blocks of ice. While Father battles nature, the children adapt to their natural surroundings. They clear the Acre, where wild fruit and vegetables grow in profusion next to a natural spring. Here they act out against their father’s dominion by playing at going to school, shops, and church.
For a while, this updated Swiss Family Robinson lives in harmony with their new physical surroundings, but Father’s quest...
(The entire section is 704 words.)