More Than a Simple Romance, a Review of ROZ: The Story of a Jamaican Lolita

by William Rand
2 March 2013

In ROZ: The Story of a Jamaican Lolita, Jon Michael Miller delivers everything I look for in a novel: a rousing story, the experience of learning about a place I have never seen, the truth about life and social commentary regarding that truth.

The novel ROZ can be read and greatly enjoyed for the story alone. With interesting characters and a twisting, suspenseful plot, Miller weaves a tale that is at once one of romance, hot erotica, comedy, mystery, tragedy and fast-paced action. The novel is so complete, and at once complex, that a single, narrow audience is difficult to pinpoint. Diverse characters introduce subplots that weave about the central romantic problem, pulling the reader through at a sprinting pace that makes the book hard to put down.

If you are expecting a simple romance focused only on the question of whether the couple gets together, you will be in over your head. The romantic conflict is there and beautifully handled, however. The central plot follows the female protagonist, Rosalind, who has a difficult goal to achieve and the male protagonist, Glenn, who needs to learn. Their romantic conflict is best exemplified by Miller’s line: “She pitied him for his stupidity. And he pitied her for hers.” This mutual pity results from a brilliantly handled culture clash. Perhaps a reluctant attempt at melding cultures may better explain the course of the conflict than an outright clash.

Jon Michael Miller shows the cultural conflict through description, character and dialogue. The description is so clear, balanced and well-paced that reading the novel feels like watching a movie. Miller focuses on the moment with exquisite detail. Even reading of (watching?) a cook prepare a meal in a restaurant becomes a sensory event. Miller uses detail effectively to show locations, bring out character and heighten suspense. He also uses detail especially well in dialogue and dialect. Not only does Miller show unique characters through dialogue, he also shows character growth and change through dialogue and local dialect. However, Miller’s best use of description comes in his portrayal of Jamaica. The reader is transported to a country very different from the United States. The novel is well-detailed, but it is no vacation advertisement. Miller shows urban and rural Jamaica at its best and worst, sparing nothing of the truth of the society and of its people.

Miller knows story people. His characters are believable, unique individuals. In my military days, I heard a less than kind saying in the US Army about the Marine Corps: “You meet one jarhead, you met the whole Marine Corps.” That, of course, only applies from a distance. It also shows prejudice and a reluctance to see people as individuals. Miller shows the truth of discrimination and breaks through it. Yes, the Jamaicans in the novel are different from the people from the United States in their worldview. However, Jamaicans, like Americans, are also very different from each other. In addition, Miller presents an uncomfortable truth of many societies: a lot of bigotry occurs within a society, among its own members against each other. Much of the prejudice in the novels centers on age, education and social class, interesting themes; however, a lot of the social prejudice in the novel, as in real life, simply involves money or the perception of money.

This presentation of truth in the novel involves social criticism that permeates the story. Therein lies the most important and most enduring aspect of the novel: its direct and ironic criticism of two cultures that are each, in their own way, locked into dogmatic and generally bigoted social beliefs. Miller shows a lot of courage and insight by addressing such issues directly, honestly and sympathetically. He shows talent in doing it through an interesting, engrossing story. The book is not for the closed-minded or doggedly politically correct, if the redundancy can be forgiven. Feminists especially will probably be angered, not unlike so many conservatives were angered by the publication of Shirley Jackson’s classic story “The Lottery.” Many people do not like going against popular opinion, no matter how unfounded; they do not want to be forced to think. Nevertheless, the truth of society remains, shown clearly in the novel.

Through themes of age, love, loyalty, trust, greed, education and economics, Miller holds the mirror of prejudice and blind social obedience up to a reluctant society. That message is vitally important, but ROZ: The Story of a Jamaican Lolita is a wonderful read on several levels. Don’t miss the great story along the way.

Finis

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