Off the coast of Cape Cod lies a small windswept island called Penikese. Alone on the island is a school for juvenile delinquents, the Penikese Island School, where Daniel Robb lived and worked for three years as a teacher. By turns harsh, desolate, and starkly beautiful, the island offers its temporary residents respite from lives filled with abuse, violence, and chaos. But as Robb discovers, peace, solitude, and a structured lifestyle can go only so far toward healing the anger and hurt he finds not only in his students but within himself.
Lyrical and heartfelt, Crossing the Water is the memoir of his first eighteen months on Penikese, and a poignant meditation on the many ways that young men can become lost.
Disturbing, funny and often wise, this memoir charts Robb's 18 months as a resident teacher working with troubled youth at a small progressive school on a remote, picturesque island near the Massachusetts coast. At first Robb, a writer and editor, approaches his position at the Penikese Island School as just another job, but soon his interaction with the small group of teenage boys becomes as challenging and rewarding as that of a family, transforming everyone in the process. The school administrator and Robb's fellow teachers, unswayed by the legal transgressions of the juvenile offenders, see only young boys who can be redeemed with adult supervision, hard work, clean air, healthy food, scheduled activity and fun. Robb, with a keen ear for dialogue and an instinct for telling detail, captures the humanity of each boy, thus avoiding Blackboard Jungle clich s, so the reader sees through the tough facade of the car thief, arsonist or headbanger to the insecure, lonely kid underneath. In the end, Robb must confront his own demons born of a turbulent childhood and youth, while enduring the loneliness of the solitary island existence; he handles this introspection in a series of well-placed flashbacks and memories. This brief experience at Penikese alters him profoundly, giving him stability, confidence, love and family. Yet he never lapses into sentimentality about his job, the boys or himself.