The salty piece of land in this Jimmy Buffett novel is the Bahamian island of Cayo Loco. Ex-cowboy and minor fugitive Tully Mars lands on its beaches after a series of fortunate and unfortunate events.
The story follows Tully from Wyoming, where he announced his resignation at an obnoxious poodle ranch by throwing a massage table through a plate-glass window. Tully and his horse made their way to the Gulf of Mexico then onto the Yucatan peninsula. Eventually, Tully meets centenarian Cleopatra Highbourne, who sails the seas in search of a rare antique Fresnel lens for her Cayo Loco lighthouse restoration project.
A Salty Piece of Land is loosely centered on Tully Mars, but features many colorful characters as well. Sea captains, aviators, wacky bounty hunters, lovely women bearing closeted skeletons, and several island natives add their own details to the novel. The search for a Fresnel lens expands the tale’s setting to islands in the south Pacific and beyond.
Buffett’s prose reads like an extended travelogue promoting island escape. There’s some Mayan history and lots of local fishing lore. The story meanders slightly, but those familiar with the concept of island time won’t mind a bit. The ending featuring Ms. Highbourne and the rebirth of Cayo Loco is strong and satisfying.
It’s difficult to get through a Jimmy Buffett book without craving fish tacos and tequila. Grab your limes. A Salty Piece of Land is a literary island escape and a pleasant read as well.