The Weekly Geeks are catching up on reviews this week which seems like a good plan to me. I've only got two, so if I write one today and one tomorrow, then I'll have it made. Now to see if it can actually be done. I really must get to it, but first a few side notes. I went on "vacation" this past weekend and it was glorious. I had a swell time, but I'm behind at everything (but it was so worth it), so I'm going to write this book review (it's about time), then I'm going to open up my feed reader and, most likely, cry a little (because of all those unread posts). Oh, and thanks to all of you who commented on the last post, I probably won't get a chance to respond to you all individually, but the "get well soons" were appreciated...and I'm finally getting well, but it certainly wasn't soon by any stretch of the imagination. ;-)
So yeah, book review. The last of my travel memoir trio, at long last. Up next? Something that isn't a travel memoir!
Black Wave is Jean and John Silverwood's chronicle of their decision to take their four children out of their cushy California lives and pursue their lifelong dream of sailing the world. Worried that their children have not learned to really experience life and meet the world head on, the Silverwoods decide that, despite the dangers inherent in sailing long distances, the risk would be worth it to see their family grow together and their children mature in these unique circumstances. On one hand, they were right. On the other, they get much more than they bargained for when their ship wrecked on an isolated coral reef.
Jean's portion of the story alternates a night fraught with terror as the family battles for their lives on the coral reef with flashbacks of their trip up to that point. The recounting of the shipwreck is terrifying, the chronicling of the family's experiences at sea amusing and sometimes heartwarming. However, the interspersing of the two is clumsily done, alternating between tenses and time frames and locales in such a way that it begins to be confusing. Jean's narrative comes to life as she keenly observes her two eldest children coming of age throughout the journey and sees them as their new adult selves on the night of ship wreck. Unfortunately, she occasionally seems to get caught in a trap of trying to describe inherently difficult to describe feelings and situations and failing to do so. These efforts lead to writing that fails to seem genuine and often comes off as overwrought.
John's portion of the story is oddly incongruous with Jean's given their experience of the same events. Instead of weighing in at length on the experience of the trip, he mostly dwells on theories of how the ship came to wreck on this little known stretch of reef and a historical tale of the Julia Ann, a ship that wrecked on the very same reef many years earlier. I found the story of the Julia Ann to be well-written and engaging, with its historical figures coming to life through John's capable writing. John's efforts to return to the theme Jean has begun are also well worth reading as he attempts to identify those qualities in his family members that made it possible for them to survive their harrowing night on the reef.
Overall, I was confused by this book. While its parts are interesting and keep the pages turning, the book as whole just doesn't come together well. Upon reaching the end I was perplexed about what the Silverwoods intended this book to be. Is it a story of their ship wreck? A history of someone else's ship wreck? A contemplation of what caused the ship wreck(s?)? A transcendant tale of a family that truly learned to live life in unusual circumstances whose members grew and matured together and eventually beat the odds because of the lessons they learned throughout the trip? Had the Silverwoods been able to agree on one angle to focus on (ideally, the last), instead of spreading themselves too thin trying to include a little of everything, this book may have been great. As it is, this book's identity crisis undercuts its effectiveness.
The book will be in stores in July.
From what I can tell from Library Thing, my opinion of the book is a bit dissenting, so if any of you have reviewed this book (or do so in the future), I'd love to link to your review. Just leave me a comment with the link.