China Rock is a warm, coming-of-age novel set in the San Juan Islands of Washington State during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Author Laura Kelly Robb intertwines the fictional history of Pop Mohan’s seven children with the challenges and rewards of island life during hardscrabble times.
Pop Mohan lands in Friday Harbor – after a checkered history of Roaring Twenties gambling, and a subsequently successful career of marine navigation, ruined by the Crash of ’29. Attracted by the fishing flotillas of the San Juans, he finds occasional work as well as an outdoor paradise for his sons and daughters.
Augie, Pop’s oldest son, narrates the tale about his sisters’ and brothers’ efforts to understand their furious, harsh, and hard-working father. In the midst of one of the most challenging periods of American history, all the children have their own dreams and struggle to find the wherewithal to fulfill them.
Augie, whose pride in being the oldest son of the family leads him into an unfortunate web of lies, wonders only if he can be less heartless than his father. Sarah, the eldest, wants distance from the family, while Jim and Crayton want to honor the family name by winning a writing contest. Howard, as wild as his father is disciplined, literally wants to set the world on fire.
When the dodgy captain of the Carolina, Petsey Corrigan, hires Pop for a three-day stint up the Vancouver Island coastline, tragedy strikes. The Carolina disappears, but two bodies wash up on an island beach. What connection could the corpses of a young Chinese couple have with Pop’s fate in the stormy Puget Sound? Augie, now the first line of defense in his family’s war against poverty, is left to unravel the mystery.
China Rock is available on Amazon, Indiebound, Kindle, in local bookstores, and at the Seattle, San Juan Island, and Orcas Island public libraries.