All Inclusive: a polysexual rom-com with a dash of the supernatural
by Drew Rowsome
All Inclusive is a perfect beach read. Especially if one is on a holiday at an all inclusive beach resort.
Familiar with author Farzana Doctor's reputation as an activist, I was eager to read All Inclusive. Familiar with author Farzana Doctor's reputation as an activist, I was hesitant to start All Inclusive. While the politics underlying tourism to a third world country is an inescapable part of many vacations, I admit I have managed huge feats of denial while staying at a resort. I expected to be fed a certain amount of guilt, or be subjected to a call to arms. I couldn't have been more wrong, Doctor is very subtle and is up to something else all together.
All Inclusive begins as a portrait of two lives: Ameera, a Canadian who works in a Mexican all-inclusive resort in 2015, and Azeez, a just-graduated from MacMaster University East Indian student who is on the prowl in 1985. Azeez loses his virginity on the eve of his return to India; Ameera is exploring the joys of swinging with resort couples. Seeing exactly how these stories will intersect takes none of the joy out of the opening, Doctor captures the hesitancy and the excitement of breaking sexual mores very well.
Azeez's story then veers, rather suddenly, into new-agey sci-fi territory and it is, initially, off-putting. I admit my eyes rolled back into my head at a few points and if Ameera's adventures were not so intriguing, I might have put the book down. However the intersection of the two plots gathers momentum and the overarching theme pulls it all together. The final result more than forgives the few missteps. As All Inclusive hurtles towards its conclusion, it becomes a page turner with smarts: a perfect beach read.
Doctor does have political points to make but they are smoothly integrated and, particularly around race and sexuality, quite cleverly written. All Inclusive is about people, very three-dimensional (even the ghosts) people, not characters in service of an agenda. And the exposé of the exploitation by those who tourist-host for profit, crops up obliquely making it all the more pointed and effective.
The sex scenes are hot, Doctor is very good at using sensory descriptions to sketch emotions beyond graphic illustration, and the over-riding morality - sexual acivitiy = punishment - is over-ridden by the denouement. The triumph of sexual fluidity is a bit schematic but as a parallel to the supernatural elements, it all balances out.
Doctor takes some big chances within a mash of genres and creates an entertaining read that also provokes thought. Perfect to pack for a winter vacation whether you are, or are not, hoping to sexually adventure in the sun.