Nature Girl

Nature Girl

by Carl Hiaasen

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen. I’m a big believer in the one-for-you one-for-me theory of gift shopping, and among the gifts I gave myself this year was sitting down with Carl Hiaasen’s newest, Nature Girl. When you pick up one of his books, you go in knowing a few things: it’ll be set in South Florida, the protagonist will be mildly delusional, and the villain will be depraved and bizarre. Hiaasen could open a sideshow of bad guys, no one writing today gets as much obvious relish from creating these lumpen towers of malevolence. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my personal favorite was Chemo from the wonderful Skin Tight. Chemo was a giant of a man with an unfortunate complexion, and only one hand. He attached a weed whacker to the stump; the better to do evil with, I guess was the idea. (Seriously, if you haven’t read Skin Tight, you need to. Go ahead, I’ll wait.)

Nature Girl is set in tiny Everglades City, at the edge of that slowly shrinking river of grass. Honey Santana hears music in her head and really doesn’t react well to bad behavior from the general public, particularly when she feels a threat to her 12 year old son, Fry.  And our villain is a slobbering pervert named Louis Piejack who has the hots for Honey and is seemingly impervious to pain.

But wait! There’s another villain, and he’s someone we can all agree is a common enemy — a telemarketer who not only calls Honey during dinner, but is rude to her when she questions his salesmanship. This sets her off on a scheme that involves fake real estate, a kayak eco-tour, and will eventually involve her ex-husband, (Does he still care? What do you think?) plus a half-Seminole named Sammy Tigertail who grew up in the suburbs and is now trying to get back to his roots, a sorority gal who I am pleased to report has both sass and some brains, and like they say about Gilligan’s Island, ‘and the rest.’ The cast of characters is big and I occasionally lost track of who was where and doing what to whom. It matters not much at all, because with Hiaasen, if this is the sort of thing you like, this is the sort of thing you’ll like.

He’s a little less cavalier when writing about Honey’s mental instability than he has been with characters in the past — she and her husband split up mainly because he couldn’t keep up with her manic devotion to setting right all the wrongs in the world. (Oh, also because he got sent away for dealing pot.) Some of his older books had off-kilter heroes whom we were clearly supposed to find adorable and sexy, but I found Honey a little easier to take in that regard — she’s struggling to find some stability and it’s not played off as cute.

I also enjoyed Honey’s relationship with Fry, who is touchingly devoted to his troubled mom. Hiaasen has a knack for writing about kids that makes me think all teenagers maybe aren’t complete punks.

And as always, Hiaasen’s passion for the last remote slivers of unspoiled Florida — giant bugs and all — made me glad I grew up down there. There’s something about the way he writes that makes me want to sabotage a bulldozer.

Nature Girl, by Carl Hiaasen. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen.

As usual, Hiaasen sets his book in a remote corner of Florida, Ten Thousand Islands at the edge of the Everglades. When Honey Santana gets one too many telemarketing calls during dinner, it sets off a chain of events that drags the telemarketer, his soon to be ex-girlfriend, a Florida State sorority girl, and a half-Seminole hottie named Sammy Tigertail on a trip through the swamps, pursued by the villain of the piece, a slobbering pervert who’s hot for Honey — the Nature Girl of the title — and apparently is impervious to pain. Hiaasen writes the best villains.  I’ve always loved the way Hiaasen makes the south Florida locale such a big part of the story, and tiny Dismal Key is a fine addition. Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen.

Hiaasen is one of the group of South Florida mystery writers, I love them all, but Hiaasen has a way with bad guys that I don’t think anyone can match. It’s a tossup in this book between the selfish and utterly without merit telemarketer Boyd Shreave, and the disgusting pervert Louis Piejack. In Nature Girl, our heroine, the good-intentioned but slightly-deranged Honey Santana gets herself mixed up with these two along with the rest of the large and colorful cast, and they all wind up lost in Ten Thousand Islands, at the edge of the Everglades. There are ghosts, fire ants, missing tourists, kidnapped co-eds, and some gunplay — a typical day in South Florida. Nature Girl is by Carl Hiaasen. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen.

When you pick up one of Hiaasen’s books, you know it’s going to be a crime novel set in South Florida, and there’ll be good hearted women, the foulest villain imaginable, at least one wise-beyond-their-years child, and part of the elaborately plotted book will take place in the swamps. There you have Nature Girl. There are actually a couple of good-hearted women, and I appreciated the fact that Hiaasen really seems to like his female characters, and lets them do the unexpected. His villains are just what you’d think — very bad — and the swamps of the Everglades are a vast and silent blank canvas on which all these characters — good and bad — stumble around and try and figure out which side they’re on. Nature Girl is by Carl Hiaasen. I’m Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


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