A story about one all-inclusive resort, the ghost of an unknown father, and the tragedies we can’t forget.
What’s it like when everyone’s dream vacation is your job? Ameera works at a Mexican all-inclusive resort, where every day is paradise — if “paradise” means endless paperwork, quotas to meet, and entitled tourists. But it’s not all bad: Ameera’s pastime of choice is the swingers scene, and the resort is the perfect place to hook up with like-minded couples without all the hassle of having to see them again.
Despite Ameera’s best efforts to keep her sideline a secret, someone is spreading scandalous rumours about her around the resort, and her job might be at stake. Meanwhile, she’s being plagued by her other secret, the big unknown of her existence: the identity of her father and why he disappeared. Unbeknownst to Ameera, her father, Azeez, is looking for her, and they both must come to terms with the reason why he abandoned her.
A moving new work from award-winning author Farzana Doctor, All Inclusive blurs the lines between the real world and paradise, and life and death, and reminds us that love is neither easily lost nor found.
Now Magazine Best Author • Kobo Best Book of the Year — Canadian Favourites Category
Farzana Doctor is the author of Stealing Nasreen and Six Metres of Pavement, which won the 2012 Lambda Literary Award and was short-listed for the Toronto Book Award. Farzana is one of CBC Books’ Ten Canadian Women Writers You Need to Read Now and the recipient of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Grant. She co-curates the Brockton Writers Series and lives in Toronto.
March 27, 2015, Huatulco, Mexico
A DC8 droned above.
“Here they come,” I announced. Friday was our departure-arrival day. One sunburned and grouchy group left for their northern homes, and another cohort, ecstatic and pale, touched down and took their place.
Roberto grabbed a plastic file-box and gestured for me to sit beside him. I lowered myself onto the makeshift seat and wiped away a slick of perspiration from the creases behind my knees.
“Ameera, you hear about that tour rep getting fired over at Waves?” Roberto stroked his thin moustache.
“Nancy? Yeah, I’m still in shock. ” I hadn’t known her well, but I’d gone clubbing with her and the other tour reps from our sister resorts a few times. She’d seemed all right to me.
The airplane circled closer, and, in unison, we clapped our hands over our ears and tilted our chins to the sky. After it had rolled across the tarmac and quieted its engines, we resumed our gossip.
“What I don’t get is why someone in their late twenties would want to have sex with a fifteen-year-old. ” Roberto shook his head, as though trying to dislodge the idea.
“But didn’t the kid lie about his age? He told her he was eighteen, right?” While I’d never in a million years sleep with a teenager, I could imagine how booze and loneliness could have led Nancy to her mistake.
“Who knows. There was no investigation. ” Roberto slouched, his lanky frame folding into itself.
“True. It’s unfair. ” It was strange that there hadn’t been an investigation. I couldn’t imagine our cheerful manager, Anita, firing anyone.
“At least we’re gonna get a local boss soon. ” Roberto was referring to our company’s recent announcement to shift from an Ottawa-based management model to a Huatulco-based one. I was surprised he was raising the subject; we’d all been skirting it.
“It’ll be strange though — one of us promoted over the others?” Not just strange. Awkward.
“Well, I think it should be Oscar. He’s been working in the industry since he was a teenager. ”
“Maybe. ” Truthfully, I’d been fantasizing about the promotion since the memo’s arrival. It would make staying in Huatulco for another three years worthwhile. So what if Oscar was way older than the rest of us? I had the best sales record.
I looked at our three coworkers: Manuela, Blythe, and Oscar, who stood listlessly in the glass-fronted airport terminal building. Did they all want the job as much as I did?
Luggage began to circle on the conveyer belt, nudging them out of their collective stupor. They sauntered our way.
“Still no tourists. ” Manuela fished an elastic from her pocket and gathered her long black hair into a messy ponytail.
“The customs guys take too long in there,” Oscar said.
“It’s getting bloody late,” Blythe complained.
I checked my watch. We still had to welcome the incoming tourists, pack them onto Oceana’s buses, and offer a perfunctory tour of the stretch of highway between the airport and hotel. When we arrived at Atlantis, our home resort, the vacationers would hold things up at the front desk, arguing for better rooms with king-size beds and oceanfront views. The whole tedious process would take about two and a half hours, provided that there weren’t any lost suitcases, passengers, or other mishaps.
Manuela’s giggling fit interrupted my thoughts. Roberto, a head taller, grinned down at the blush spreading across her face and neck. Oscar, too, looked amused, his mouth tight, his chin jutting out. Even though I’d missed their joke, I smiled along with them. I liked seeing my three Mexican coworkers like this, relaxed and natural, so different from their formal work demeanours. Blythe prodded Manuela for a translation; neither she nor I were fluent enough in Spanish to understand jokes delivered in double-quick time.
“They’re talking about that lady and her husband who left today. With the big muscles?” Manuela explained.
“Ameera, you know them. They spent a lot of time talking to you at the tour desk. ” Roberto flexed his biceps and sucked in his gut. The bodybuilders from Buffalo, Marina and Mike. I tensed, wondering what he’d seen.
“Oh, yeah?” I asked, trying to feign indifference. Roberto winked at me. Why do people wink? It’s such a stupid gesture. “A girl shouldn’t get that big. Not natural. Women should have some fat on them,” Oscar opined. Manuela adjusted her skirt, and stood a little taller in her black pumps. Blythe rolled her eyes.
I crossed my arms over my chest and squeezed my soft biceps, remembering how flabby I was in contrast to the bodybuilders’ hard bodies. The previous night, when I’d straddled Marina, pinning her down on the bed, I’d felt foolish, like I couldn’t convincingly carry off the move. But she’d played along, moaning and groaning while she pretended to struggle beneath my grip. I’d pushed my tongue into her mouth and my breasts against her flat chest. Meanwhile, Mike watched from the sofa, naked, except for a ridiculous lime-green sombrero upon his head.
“Bodybuilding is a very big trend these days,” Blythe said, authoritatively, tucking a stray lock of blond hair behind her ear. She had a habit of offering us insights about our Canadian and American tourists, even though she hailed from a small town in England.
“Fea. Ugly. There is your Word of the Week. ” Oscar peered over the top of his bifocals at me.
The others laughed — we’d long ago turned my weekly vocabulary-building exercise into a joke — but I was in no mood for it. I scanned the runway. The plane that had arrived earlier, belching a couple hundred men, women, and children onto the tarmac, was now the site of the departing group’s mass exodus. I squinted to locate Marina’s red coif and Mike’s bright sombrero in the queue. There they were, at the front. I watched them climb the steps and disappear inside the dark of the airplane. When I turned back to my colleagues, Roberto was watching me with a bemused expression.
“Yes. Fea,” Oscar repeated. He rubbed concentric circles into his back. And then, changing the subject as was his tendency, he said, “We need chairs out here. ”
“Chairs for us? Never gonna happen,” Blythe sing-songed at him.
“We’ll see,” Oscar blurted. He raised the subject on a weekly basis even though management had told us chairs were not permitted because of some arbitrary airport regulation. “I will bring my own then. Yes, that is what I will do. ”
“Finally. ” I pointed to the tourists who were now trickling through the baggage area.
The five of us stepped into formation, and a middle-aged man approached our kiosk, his eyes skipping across our reception line of artificial smiles. He focused on Blythe.
“Welcome to Huatulco,” she said blandly, reaching for their documents.
“You’re on Ameera’s bus. Bus Number Three, over that way folks,” Oscar said with forced cheer.
A group of four young men wearing khakis and T-shirts bearing my alma mater’s logo asked about welcome drinks and Manuela promised them that they’d be sitting at an overflowing bar in an hour. I was about to ask them about campus life, but a beverage vendor yelled, “Cerveza fría! Cold beer here!” and the men followed his voice, like lemmings over a cliff.
A young couple with three children was among the last to approach the kiosk. The mother drooped under the weight of a sleepy toddler, while a young boy and slightly older girl clung to her thighs. The father dragged a squeaky cart with three suitcases and four overstuffed — and threatening to topple — backpacks in various Disney motifs. Manuela directed the family to my bus, when suddenly their eldest girl ran off toward the tarmac, yelling, “I want to go home!” I dropped my clipboard and gave chase. I scooped her into my arms, and the girl sputtered a surprised laugh, her cheeks reddening. I giggled along with her as I ushered her dazed-looking parents onto my bus.
Before climbing aboard, I gazed at the afternoon sky to watch the outbound flight of vacationers, including the bodybuilders, fly away home.
NOW Magazine Best Author 2015, Winner
In the worlds that Farzana Doctor creates, ordinary people are wondrous and complicated, and all these things that divide us — countries, professions, sexualities, genders, races — are mere distractions from what truly matters. Her stories ring true enough to think our world could be that way too. One can only hope.
Ambitious, original, mysterious, sensual, All Inclusive is all that — and a terrific read to boot.
An ambitious, thematically voracious novel on love and the wounds we didn’t know we had.
Farzana Doctor’s original, provocative new novel seduces (and challenges) readers on every page. All Inclusive is Doctor’s best — and sexiest! — work yet.
Doctor must be commended for her ability to render a disembodied “meandering whoosh” sympathetic.
Yep, it is a provocative novel, one that will raise eyebrows.
Farzana Doctor’s third novel, All Inclusive, is a rare, somewhat whimsical but vibrantly coloured toucan in a nest of Canadian starlings … All Inclusive is not your traditional Can Lit (capital C, capital L) and thank god for it.
By turns funny, moving, thoughtful, and erotic, All Inclusive is a powerful meditation on life, love, and loss. Farzana Doctor spins a passionate, page-turning tale about the sometimes invisible ties that bind. This is brilliant storytelling.
All Inclusive is chock full of surprises. It has ghostly spirits, grief, young adult angst, intrigue, and even some touches of erotica … Doctor is able to blend these elements into something unique and captivating.
All Inclusive is a page turner, and Doctor is a deliciously evocative writer.
Her outstanding characterization and the depth of language establish the importance of Farzana Doctor’s writing. In her startling and evocative description of the lives of people in the tourist industry, All Inclusive is more than just a title.
The imagination of the afterlife is one of the highlights of the novel. … Doctor crafts a modern ghost story that emphasizes an open mind when it comes to history and a focus on its outcomes rather than its cause.
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