Pere is living the life in central Florida. Money is tight, but odd jobs at the marina keep him in mac ‘n’ cheese and Chesterfields and pay the few bills that can’t be put off. His good buddy Clyde, who lives in an identical condo across the street, can always be relied upon for bait and swapping lies. One day is the same as the next, until his girlfriend, Missy, is sentenced to two-years at Lowell Correctional in Ocala for methamphetamine possession. In Ohio, Missy’s ex-husband puts their ten-year-old daughter Tammy on a Greyhound direct to Florida.
Skinny and blonde and small for her age, Tammy steps off the bus with only a pack of colored markers and a black trash-bag of dirty clothes. Pere is suddenly a reluctant surrogate father, trying to survive on a shrinking income, and struggling to maintain his own fragile sobriety. Together, Pere and Tammy are an accidental family wandering lost in the land of temporary tags and disability checks, where the smell of caustic chemicals and fried food hangs in the air like wet laundry, and in the course of a single day they find out who needs taking care of, and who, exactly, is taking care of them.
Praise for Tiki Man
“I loved the human drama that pulses through this story. Atkinson’s unique social fluency allows for a captivating delve into America’s troubled class. With Pere and his young ward Tammy as guides, this book travels among a carnival of lost souls painted with perfect resonance and vitality. This unlikely duo’s warmth and growing affection buoy them from turbulent lives, and make them indelible among the world of gambling ships, charter boats, and the shadow of correctional facilities rendered so shimmering yet gritty by this superb writer.”
– Devin Murphy, author of The Boat Runner and Tiny Americans
“As a lifelong fan of stories about found families and unlikely alliances, I love everything about Tiki Man, an unflinching look at life on the edges of society. Atkinson shows us there is hope in the smallest of hearts and love in the roughest of gestures.”
-Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of 40 published and upcoming books including Pay It Forward
“Why does Pere, a man deadly honest with himself and the reader, tell lies to Tammy? It’s a short-term gambit to offer up small pockets of hope, small bits of emotional protection within her harsh methamphetamine-rocked world. We’ve all told lies to kids. But these lies make you realize the lies needed in her world are so much more numerous, so much more necessary, so much more impactful. How many lies can Pere tell? How long can his protection last? We don’t know. The book only spans one day. We watch these two scrape by one dollar at a time. We watch them travel to hell and back and to hell again (and that’s just their morning). But they are pulling hard for each other. We watch Pere, the down-and-out, life-long drifter, almost gone to seed, bloom under the watchful and whip-smart guidance of Tammy. We watch Tammy’s needs transform to self-reliance under Pere’s protection. Read this book for that relationship. And read this book for the startling sentences that stitch this relationship together.”
-R. Cathey Daniels, author of Live Caught