4 out of 4 stars
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A container ship on fire in the Gulf of Alaska in midwinter; a tug rushing to the rescue; lifeboats tossing helplessly in stormy seas; survivors cast up on an inhospitable coast: Adrift by Charlie Sheldon is jam-packed with action and suspense.
Sheldon writes with immediacy and authority. A professional seaman, he knows his subject and his setting. I love novels that introduce me to different lifestyles in a part of the world I know nothing about.
I first discovered the Olympic National Park and its environs in the author’s first book, Strong-Heart, which was part mystical, part adventure, telling a dual story about present-day legal and mining battles and a sweeping saga of a sea voyage thousands of years ago.
The story continues. William, one of the original group of friends, tells it to the castaways on a remote island in the Queen Charlottes. The others, Tom, Sarah, Myra and Sergei, are inspired by the grit and determination of those long-gone seafarers as they face their own trials.
I am familiar with the story, so the mystical references to the voyage and the totem bear made sense to me. I am not sure how much a new reader would understand from the rather sparse details given.
The perspective shifts constantly from character to character, bewilderingly so at times. We share with Louise on the tug, Travis on the burnt-out container ship, Steve and William in the lifeboats and Myra anxiously waiting for news on shore.
She is also involved in the on-going legal controversy between those wishing to mine the park and the tribal authorities trying to preserve their past and traditions.
In all, this is a tense, exciting thriller packed with gritty, authentic detail, and set in a remote and beautiful part of the world. The characters are sympathetic and believable, ranging from the original band to Louise struggling to keep her tug afloat; Pete fighting to keep his job and his son; Anne facing the wilderness alone; and Steve, the captain who lost his ship and his livelihood.
Although the language is a little clumsy at times, there are no typos or grammar mistakes to mar the tale. There is also scope for a sequel as there are several questions that need to be answered. I, for one, would be glad of it.
Adrift will appeal to anyone who enjoys realistic sea stories and tales of courage in the face of disaster. I give it 4 out of 4 stars.
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