Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 45.
- Review Date: 2008-04-14
- Reviewer: Staff
In 2003, after two years at sea, the 55-foot catamaran sailed by the Silverwoods, a suburban California family that chucked it all to sail around the world, hit a reef off the South Pacific island of Scilly (now known as Manuae), putting the life of Jean and John and their four children (ages five to 16) in peril. The first part of the book is written from Jean’s perspective as she opens with the wreck and then moves smoothly between the family’s fight for survival and the story of their journey. By juxtaposing the two tales, Jean illustrates how the children’s maturity and cohesiveness were not only a byproduct of the trip but also the keys to all the Silverwoods surviving their ordeal, especially John, who was critically injured by the falling mast. Jean wears her heart on her sleeve, and her writing about her marital problems or John’s alcoholic relapses is honest. John’s narrative is half as long as Jean’s, underscoring his straight-to-the point personality and writing style. The saga from John’s perspective lacks emotion, but his ability to interweave the story of the Julia Anne (a sailing ship that hit the same reef in 1855) gives an eye-opening account of how much and how little sea travel has changed in 150 years and accentuates the heroism of this family that overcame an extraordinary ordeal. (July)
A family's troubled waters
Life on a boat sounds like a dream: sailing in and out of tropical locales, embracing the staggering vastness of the sea, seeing the world up-close and in living color. Then there's the reality: homesick kids, pirates, costly and time-consuming repairs, squabbling. Black Wave details John and Jean Silverwood's tumultuous, yet ultimately rewarding, experience on the Emerald Jane, their 55-foot catamaran. In a span of two years, the California couple and their four kids (ages three to 14 at the start), traveled from the Atlantic coast, into the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean.
Then, near the end of the adventure, the boat hit a reef in French Polynesia, and was ravaged, pinning John under its mast in the process. With help hours away and John slipping toward death, the family sprung into action, pulling him from the wreckage and keeping him alive. "There is no time to rehearse; whoever you are in those moments is exactly who you are," John writes. "It is who your family is, too." Jean Silverwood complements the book's nautical action with substance. She throws readers into the frenzy of the wreck and details the highs and lows of life onboard, coming across as personable, vulnerable and concernedin short, a real person and not an adrenaline junkie.
Given the material, it's impossible for Black Wave to be boring; there's plenty to keep readers turning the pages a steady clip, making this an ideal beach (or boat) read.