Everett Peacock’s The Parrot Talks in Chocolate is a character-study novella of life at a Hawaiian tiki bar. It is an evocative, light, quick read that will warm you on a cold winter night, transporting you to a tropical paradise and introducing you to a set of well-developed characters.
The narrator is a young bartender whose closest companions at the beginning of the book are an old dog and an intriguing parrot. The titular parrot, named Tiwaka, not only lends his name to Tiwaka’s Tiki Bar & Grill, but plays the role of interesting host at the bar. Feed Tiwaka some chocolate, then ask him a question, and he has a fascinating knack for replying with an answer that seems remarkably apropos.
The book is character driven, not strong on plot. Most of the action is gentle — with the exception of a chase in a nearby village and a frightening surfing chapter. Most other chapters are character studies of patrons at the tiki bar. Those characters have well-developed personalities with interesting back stories and front stories that either involve their influence on the narrator, or the tiki bar’s influence on them. If you define Literary as any book that is about the human experience, then this book borders on qualifying. We see characters at just about every stage of life, birth, infancy, youth, middle age, old age, and death.
The book has a hint of magic realism, but it is not as heavy-handed as most other magic realism novels. The most notable moments of magic realism come in the latter half of the book and can be read either as truly magical or as the narrator’s perception of what he believes to be magic. Rather than calling it magic realism, I would be more inclined to call this a lifestyle novel. It’s mostly about life in a tiki bar on a Hawaiian island, with just a very little spirituality and philosophy thrown in. The theme is spiritual without being religious.
Among the standout chapters is “We May Be Old, but the Night is Young,” in which we get a character study of an elderly man whose perspective on life is that he is living in the future – and a hula show that turns wild. It’s chapters like this that combine Everett Peacock’s awareness of character and his ability to describe the island lifestyle that make the book worth reading. The chapters “Pineapple Picker” and “Hehunakai” are similarly good, with the former being strong on character and the latter being strong on setting and description.
In the chapter “Volcano Daze,” the narrator’s argument with and chase by a local restaurant cook in town feels tangential. I am not sure how it is intended to add to character, plot, or theme. While a young hippie couple with a baby early in the chapter provides thematic support and a spur toward the novella’s romantic ending, the chase sequence never has any such longer-term consequences for the narrator. Even the waitress he encourages to come out to Tiwaka’s Tiki Bar & Grill never comes out to apply for a job – at least not in this first book in the series.
The ending feels like the book had to be given a brief plot to bring the book to a climactic end. The character studies finally give way to a romance plot. However, it doesn’t have much setup. The development of the relationship between the narrator and the girl he loves should have had more depth from earlier in the book.
Everett Peacock self-published the book through CreateSpace (Amazon’s self-publishing service). While self-published books are notorious for questionable talent and execution, this book is remarkably good. At a technical level, I suspect it probably passes Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar check. However, it does suffer from occasional mis-wording, a missing apostrophe or two, and other minor issues. Nevertheless, it’s clear that Everett Peacock is a skilled writer when it comes to interesting characters, vivid settings, and keenly observed descriptions. I am quite surprised, in fact, that the author has gone the self-publishing route. He has a lot of potential that a publisher would be able to develop and refine. The Parrot Talks in Chocolate stands out from the ocean of other self-published titles as one that is worth reading.
In addition to recommending the book, I will also note that it is the first in a three-part series. I will be buying and reading the next two books and will post reviews when I read them.