There I was about an hour ago, ready to launch back into reading for the 48 Reading Challenge after sundry distractions, when I realized to my dismay that I was downstairs, and all three books that I was in the middle of were upstairs. So of course I started a new book.
The Great Wide Sea, by M.H. Herlong (2008, Viking, YA, 288 pages), is the story of three boys and their father on a boat in the Bahamas. They are on the boat because the mother died in a car accident (sniff) and the father sold their house and decided to spend the year sailing in the Bahamas. But he didn't ask his sons how they felt about this.
Here's how they felt--the two younger ones (11 year old Dylan and 5 year old Gerry) were sad and unenthusiastic. The older boy, Ben (15), was furious.
And so there they are on the boat, with Ben hating his father, and his father being unhelpfully unsympathetic (being grief-stricken), and little Gerry missing his mama so badly (sniff), and then one day the father is no longer on the boat. He has gone overboard. Almost immediately after that, a storm drives the boat onto a deserted island. The boys manage to survive for a time, but when Dylan is terribly injured, Ben must make a horrible decision...
The emotions of the characters throughout the whole book were pulled just as tautly as they could be--stuck on the boat together, they had no way to escape from each other, so there was no chance of distance bringing diffusion. Ben's feelings of hatred toward his father, and his father's inability to put his own grief to the side to cope with it, made for painful reading, but not (since of course I am a mama to my own boys) as painful as poor sad Gerry and his blankie... I wept.
Even though plot type stuff happens (father overboard, shipwrecked on desert island, terrible accident), it happens mostly in the second half of the book, so this isn't an Action Packed survival adventure, which is what I had been expecting. Instead, it is character driven all the way, even when the disasters are being dealt with. I was utterly engrossed (read it in a single sitting in under an hour type engrossed), but I don't think I'll be reading it again. The emotions of Ben and his family were too painfully real for me to want to revisit it...(and I would have liked more soothing "everything is ok now" at the ending...)