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Winston Aarons of Delray Beach set his new novel, Jasmine,
in southern Palm Beach County. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

 

By Ron Hayes

Sunday morning strollers along Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach may have noticed a professorial gentleman seated at a sidewalk table by the Colony Hotel, sipping coffee, nibbling a pastry, scribbling in a leather-bound notebook. 

Scribbling and scribbling. Pondering what he’s scribbled and scribbling some more. Sunday mornings, for several years.

The gentleman was Winston Aarons, an adjunct professor of contemporary literature at Palm Beach State College, and the product of all that scribbling has recently been named one of 2012’s Top 25 Indie Books by Kirkus Reviews.

Jasmine is a novel about love, sex, obsession and perfume. 

The Colony Hotel, renamed the Banyan Tree and transported south to Boca Raton, is a character of sorts, the site of his lovers’ sultry liaisons.

“I’ve never actually been in a room at the Colony,” Aarons says with a laugh, “but I imagined a ceiling fan and wicker furniture. There’s some sex in the book, but it’s really a discourse on relationships.”

Unfolding throughout South County, this the story of Sor Avraham, a disciplined professor of unwavering virtue whose life begins to collapse when he meets Marguerite Spares, a fellow professor. 

Both are married. Adultery ensues, with fragrant complications.

Avraham’s wife is named Jasmine.

Marguerite wears jasmine perfume.  

“Aarons artfully portrays the demise of his lead character’s control in the stable world he once inhabited,” Kirkus reports. “Vivid characters enliven a compelling story … A well-crafted tale of passion, loss and the dangers of obsession.”

The novel is dedicated to Aarons’ wife, Alene, who laughs at the idea that some might think there was a Jasmine in her husband’s life.

“Let them think what they want,” she says. “I loved the book, and not because my husband wrote it. What I like is that one chapter leads you into the next. You want to go on.”

The Aarons’ waterfront condo is filled with world literature, the walls adorned with an extensive art collection that includes majestic views of Jamaica, where Winston was born 73 years ago.

“My father’s family were Jews who came to Jamaica from Spain around 1790,” he says, “and my mother’s family were Canadian Christians from England and Wales, so I’ve got everything in me. Jamaica is a country where nothing really remains the same.”

Along with a boarding school education, Aarons’ father gave him a love of books that came along when he emigrated to New York in 1964, then grew through his decades as a manager with Carl Zeiss Inc., the German maker of optical electronics.

In 1993, when Aarons was in his early 50s, he returned to college, earning a BA in education and an MFA in literature from Sarah Lawrence College.

From 2000 to 2007, he was an assistant professor of English at Lynn University, where he also directed the honors program.

After a year’s sabbatical, he resigned from Lynn to become an adjunct professor at Palm Beach State, where he teaches a writing workshop.

“I have everyone read a short story by John Steinbeck called The Chrysanthemums,” Aarons says, shaking his head in amazed admiration. “You can’t read it once and realize what the guy’s done. Every sentence, every word counts.”

During his sabbatical, Aarons completed a memoir for which he’s currently seeking a publisher.

Sweet Like Sugar is the story of a shy boy growing up in Jamaica whose father teaches him to love books.

Jasmine is available through Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com in hardcover, paperback, Kindle and Nook editions.                

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