The romance adventure novel Stepping Stones (Page Publishing; 2020) is described by its author Phyllis Dubetsky as “fun, witty, and ultimately satisfying.” Replete with snappy dialogues between characters, the novel tells the story of a wealthy widow, Gladys Fletcher, and her spur-of-the-moment decision to move to Tortola, a remote island in the British West Indies. 

Even though a compact read, Stepping Stones tackle themes that explore personal and social values in light of today’s world: 

Creativity. There were no bridge clubs or golf courses, so Gladys turned to painting to pass the time. Tortola’s unique scenery served as her inspiration. Her work soon paid off, with her paintings displayed and sold at the island’s gallery, finally establishing herself as a painter in Tortola. She earned the pride of her son (“Mommie, you’re something else. You really did it… I’m really proud of you.”) and her eventual lover. 

Family. Gladys received occasional calls and visits from her children, who were taken aback by their mother’s abrupt relocation to Tortola. At times, Gladys was annoyed with them for seeing her as a little defenseless elderly woman in a foreign land. Though their concerns were misplaced, Stacie, Carolyn, and Jeff were just genuinely concerned for their mother. They gradually accepted Bennett, their eventual potential stepfather. The theme of family is also emphasized by Chester A. finding employment for both Cici and Tom, the gardener, and by Bennett buying a car for his family to make them happy. 

Choice. The narrative is marked by Gladys’ choice to buy a house in Tortola, which echoes her desire for adventure, as well as her deep appreciation for the island’s beauty. Her decision to sell the Florida home means she was leaving her former life behind to spend the rest of her life with Bennett, which was also a choice. 

Vocation and work. Gladys took up painting seriously in Tortola, which eventually endeared her to the island’s art and culture scene. Cici was a dedicated housekeeper who performed her job with zeal. The theme is most emphasized by Bennett, who rebuilt Gladys’ veranda. And to some extent, the topics of (un)employment and job creation are brought up by Chester A. He explained to Gladys his reason for hiring Cici as her housekeeper and John as her gardener, “The people here are poor. So everyone must find work. They must work, you see. And so it is the obligation for those who are more fortunate to hire as many as possible.”

Home. The popular adage “home is where the heart is ”fits with Gladys’ relocation to Tortola, where she found a new love in the person of Bennett. But of course, the saying “family is home” also rings true with Carolyn and Stacie, both of whom were discussing about bringing Gladys back to live with them in LA someday. 

Interracial relationships. Bennett is black while Gladys is white but, in the words of Carolyn, “practically black” as “she runs around in the sun all day” without sunscreen. However, they did not seem to mind Bennett’s skin color but were just only concerned about his background as a felon. (Jeff said, “I don’t care if he’s purple with green polka dots. The point is their backgrounds are vastly different.)

Loss. The theme is best emphasized by the death of Bennett’s family in a car explosion.

Materialism. The theme is best emphasized by Gladys’ house in Tortola, as well as her other house in Florida, and the used car that Bennett bought for his family – the one in which they perished. 

Nature. The scenic beauty of Tortola captured Gladys’ eyes and invited her to spend the rest of her life in the British West Indies. It is as if Nature called her.

Play. The children – and, later in the story, Gladys – went snorkeling and diving with Bennett.

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