Following The Highest Tide, Border Songs, and Truth Like the Sun, Jim Lynch now gives us a grand and idiosyncratic family saga that will stand alongside Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion.
Joshua Johannssen has spent all of his life surrounded by sailboats. His grandfather designed them, his father built and raced them, his Einstein-obsessed mother knows why and how they work (or not). For Josh and his two siblings, their backyard was the Puget Sound and sailing their DNA. But both his sister and brother fled many years ago: Ruby to Africa and elsewhere to do good works on land, and Bernard to god-knows-where at sea, a fugitive and pirate. Suddenly thirty-one, Josh—who repairs boats of all kinds in a Steinbeckian marina south of Seattle—is pained and confused by whatever the hell went wrong with his volatile family. His parents are barely speaking, his mystified grandfather is drinking harder, and he himself—despite an endless and comic flurry of online dates—hasn’t even come close to finding a girlfriend.
But when the Johannssens unexpectedly reunite for the most important race in these waters—all of them together on a classic vessel they made decades ago—they will be carried to destinies both individual and collective, and to a heart-shattering revelation. Past and present merge seamlessly and collide surprisingly as Jim Lynch reveals a family unlike any other, with the grace and humor and magic of a master storyteller.
Josh Johannssen, the protagonist of this enjoyable, low-key novel, has sailing in his blood. His grandfather and father are both designers and builders of sailboats. His younger sister, Ruby, scotched a promising career in sailing and now does aid work in Africa. His older brother, Bernard, took to sea and has been away for 12 years. At 31, Josh himself runs a boat repair dock in Olympia, Wash. When Josh decides to recondition an old family boat, Freya III, it's all hands on deck as every member of the Johannssen clan commits to taking part in the annual Swiftsure International Yacht Race. In the days leading up to this event, and during the race itself, Josh and his family will rehash old hurts, and shocking revelations come to light. Traveling back and forth over the history of the Johannssens, the author writes both humorously and movingly about one family's lifelong love of sailing. For those who love a good sea story, this novel will be as bracing as salt spray during an autumn sail.