Chapter Pitch and Premise
Andrew, an unemployed graduate, and his wife Janet, have been selected to join a multinational team to represent Coca-Cola’s yo-yo promotions. The story opens in Cape Town, 1961, as the group arrives to begin the tour. They are naïve and excited yet darker political themes are already foreshadowed. Over the course of the novel they will move between South Africa, South America, United States, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific. Team members will come and go, with Andrew, Janet, Clive, and Dick as the longest standing performers. The story will jump back and forth in time, each chapter titled like a diary with the respective country, year, and an idea Andrew has recorded to ponder (quotation, lyric, event, object).
The story is primarily written in first person though some chapters digress, dedicated to other characters, events, or historical backgrounds, providing perspective on the countries and people, expanding the narrative to a wider vision. Chapters include U.S. soldiers telling stories of Vietnam, political history of countries, characters before before Coca-Cola. Andrew’s narration is entirely influenced by the people surrounding him and Luis is a central character who inspires Andrew to appreciate the wider scope and find a visceral connection to the people he meets. Luis is unsettled at the beginning of the novel, experiencing political struggle in his home country, yet his negative outlook on the world improves, with the support of Andrew.
During their expeditions, they encounter wide discrimination and poverty amongst indigenous peasants in the Philippines and Latin America, where the story assumes a greater seriousness as the group notices a disparity between people and countries. They are witness to major political events such as living in Johannesburg during the Soweto Uprising and subsequent rioting; they are in the Philippines when an earthquake strikes and also meet U.S. soldiers on recreational leave from the Vietnam War. They are in San Francisco, New York, and England during civil rights marches and social movements, and John F Kennedy’s death. The cultural decade shows the group living the excessive lifestyle of the “swinging sixties” in conjunction with the radical reforms or falls of this period. Adrian, Jose, and Luis become overwhelmed by such disproportion and leave at different intervals in the novel, replaced by new representatives, including Mary (Mamiko) from Japan, Ruperto from the Philippines, Saul from Germany, and other minor characters.
In South Africa the team live in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Swaziland, and Rhodesia. In 1970, Janet gives birth to their first child in Johannesburg. Travelling with their daughter is eventually the driving force for their leaving the group in 1977. While surrounded by horrible events such as the brutality of the apartheid and Soweto Uprising, which was the only occasion Coca-Cola removes the team, there are also many beautiful experiences the group share, passing interactions and camping trips inspire the story. Andrew concludes that South Africa was his first and favourite place.
South America occupies a major segment of the novel; the group spends years living in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Mexico, and Chile. They travel south from Argentina, crossing the Andes, travelling on the coast of Chile, across the Atacama Desert and into the Peruvian Amazon. Later in the novel, their daughter attends school in Venezuela. In South America, they witness crime, civil unrest, and poverty, while also exploring vast landscapes, Latin history, and native spirit. On their last trip to South America in the mid 1970s Luis leaves the group, compelling Andrew to follow soon after.
In the Philippines the team are at a local bar near the airport and meet a group of Vietnam soldiers on leave. The U.S soldiers have profound battle stories, occupying some chapters, and many take interest in Janet. The group is most shocked by the poverty in these Asian countries, spending more time in schools and villages.
In the United States they travel to the main cities in surrounding California and New York. America is the most cosmopolitan part of their trip, where they experience jazz, drugs, and casual encounters. In Europe they spend time in Denmark, England, Sweden, Switzerland and absorb the immense cultural history. Through all of this constant movement, readers will experience an array of colourful characters, shifting landscapes, dramas, and personal development, ending the novel in 1977 when Andrew and his family move back to Australia.