At Home in Open Water
Reimagining Belonging in Under Solomon Skies
This article examines the ways in which the protagonist’s sense of belonging and identity in Berni Sorga-Millwood’s Under Solomon Skies is deeply and intimately tied with the nature and environment around him. Set in the Solomon Islands during a time of civil war and economic turmoil, it seems as if the rivers and forests of the islands are undergoing just as much change as the human relations that depend on it. While stranded at sea with his childhood friend Toni, Jack reminisces through his life and the events that led him to where he is now, and this remembrance acts as an exploration of the ever-shifting relations Jack has had with both the people and the environment around him – at times of amicable symbiosis, and at others, of brutal warfare and exploitation. The novel rarely takes an explicitly environmentalist stance, as shown clearly when Jack’s hefty paycheck quickly assuaged his guilt and anger regarding the massive deforestation taking place at the hands of the logging company he worked for. Nevertheless, by foregrounding the relationship between man and nature and presenting it as it is with all its misgivings, the novel has an environmental consciousness that eschews any explicit moral judgement. This article will explore the dynamics of this relationship as it is portrayed in the novel.