4 out of 4 stars
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I chose to read Adrift by Charlie Sheldon because it was elevated to the coveted “Book of the Month” position in April 2019. Having browsed through some of the comments I thought that it may be a very engaging and thrilling read - and the book itself fully satisfied my expectations.
The story begins with a raging fire on a container vessel in the middle of the North Pacific ocean. The crew aboard is forced to abandon ship after the Steve, the vessel’s captain, judges the situation to be unmanageable. From there on the author takes us through the lives of various individuals, who on the surface have nothing in common, but throughout the story find themselves intertwined through various threads and connections.
The book was written from varying points of view, making it possible for the reader to put him or herself in the mindset of the given protagonist and understand the emotional and physical challenges that they were going through at any given moment. Describing the situation of the second shipwrecked lifeboat from the point of view of one of the stranded crew members was very effective in projecting the dire and seemingly hopeless situation the survivors were in. Simultaneously taking the reader into the thoughts of Myra, the daughter of one of the missing crew members, could effectively demonstrate the emotional and spiritual conflicts that she was going through during the period of uncertainty of her father’s faith.
Another aspect of the book that greatly appealed to me was the tribal quality assigned to the story. Several of the main protagonists were native members of the society in Sol Duc, with roots in the Haida Gwaii, and the author went to great trouble to describe the traditional life, or their “way,” both when faced with tragedy (the missing crew) and when faced with industrial invasions (Buckhorn’s plans to mine for minerals in their homelands). What particularly stayed with me after finishing the book was the scene during the sweat lodge ceremony. The matter-of-factness of such an odd (from my outsider perspective) prayer ritual and the details that surrounded the ceremony made me feel as if I was right there beside the characters, channeling the spirits of the ancestors and hoping for a positive outcome.
If there was one thing that I didn’t entirely understand, it was the shifting perspectives in the chapters. Almost all of the stories were written from a third person point of view. The stories of Myra and of Steve, the ship's captain, however, were written from their own perspectives. I struggled to understand why these characters were given the first person point-of-view treatment, and the other characters were described from an outsider’s viewpoint.
The points of view aside, I still give the novel a 4 out of 4 stars rating. The story was thrilling, with vivid details that helped me understand the implications of each of the story threads. I have found very few editorial mistakes, all of which were negligible and did not affect my enjoyment of the book. I would recommend Adrift to anyone wishing to discover an exciting story of survival in the inimical climate of the North Pacific along the Washington and Alaska shores of North America.
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