A grieving father who has just lost his wife sells everything, buys a sailboat, and leaves with his three sons to sail the Caribbean for a year. Readers would expect that this might be a journey that gives them back their life as a family unit. And it is, but it is much more than that. The oldest son, Ben, is fifteen–old enough to feel some responsibility for his younger brothers, old enough to be thinking of his life as separate from that with his family, and of the age to question the character of his own father. So the journey does become a test for each family member’s strength as well as the bonds with each other. But the other journey, the journey of Ben’s perception of his father from failure to fallible is an equally perilous journey.
There are similarities between this book and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Paulsen captures the fear and desparation of a young boy alone in the wilderness with nothing to help him survive but a good knife. Herlong’s story doesn’t deliver as much of the urgency of surviving the ferocity of nature, but it delivers much more in the interior workings of a teen-age boy and the ferocity of coming of age.
Kids who like to sail from age nine on up should enjoy this book. While there is plenty of suspense, this is not an action packed story. It is more of a tale that rings true. I am no sailor and well past nine-years-old and I loved it.