November 26, 2022

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times


Nonfiction - Memoir
2020 Riverhead Books
Finished on November 18, 2022
Rating: 2/5 (OK)

Publisher's Blurb:

Sometimes you slip through the cracks: unforeseen circumstances like an abrupt illness, the death of a loved one, a break up, or a job loss can derail a life. These periods of dislocation can be lonely and unexpected. For May, her husband fell ill, her son stopped attending school, and her own medical issues led her to leave a demanding job. Wintering explores how she not only endured this painful time, but embraced the singular opportunities it offered.

A moving personal narrative shot through with lessons from literature, mythology, and the natural world, May’s story offers instruction on the transformative power of rest and retreat. Illumination emerges from many sources: solstice celebrations and dormice hibernation, C.S. Lewis and Sylvia Plath, swimming in icy waters and sailing arctic seas.

Ultimately Wintering invites us to change how we relate to our own fallow times. May models an active acceptance of sadness and finds nourishment in deep retreat, joy in the hushed beauty of winter, and encouragement in understanding life as cyclical, not linear. A secular mystic, May forms a guiding philosophy for transforming the hardships that arise before the ushering in of a new season.

I had high expectations for this book, but unfortunately, it didn't wow me. I enjoyed some parts better than others, but overall found it unrelatable, meandering, and lacking focus. Is it a memoir? A collection of essays? A self-improvement guide? I liked it well enough to finish, but it's not one that I'll hang on to.

November 21, 2022

House Lessons: Renovating a Life


Nonfiction - Memoir
2020 Sasquatch Books
Finished on November 12, 2022
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

“I think anyone who saves an old house has to be a caretaker at heart, a believer in underdogs, someone whose imagination is inspired by limitations, not endless options.” 

In this mesmerizing memoir-in-essays, Erica Bauermeister renovates a trash-filled house in eccentric Port Townsend, Washington, and in the process takes readers on a journey to discover the ways our spaces subliminally affect us. A personal, accessible, and literary exploration of the psychology of architecture, as well as a loving tribute to the connections we forge with the homes we care for and live in, this book is designed for anyone who’s ever fallen head over heels for a house. It is also a story of a marriage, of family, and of the kind of roots that settle deep into your heart. Discover what happens when a house has its own lessons to teach in this moving and insightful memoir that ultimately shows us how to make our own homes (and lives) better.

loved this book! I came across it while perusing the shelves at Sunriver Books & Music a few of months ago. I have read all of Erica Bauermeister's novels and was thrilled to see that she has a new book out. My love of memoirs, and of Port Townsend, (not to mention the attractive cover art) made for an instant buy, and I was not disappointed. Having recently finished Ann Patchett's marvelous collection of essays (These Precious Days), I was delighted to read another exceptional nonfiction book by a favorite author.

In 2001, Bauermeister and her husband bought and renovated a decrepit home in Port Townsend, Washington. Not only was the house (built in 1909) lifted above the original foundation to stabilize the structure, but the author and her son dismantled the stone chimney, which suffered structural damage due a missing downspout. To cut expenses, the family of four (who traveled from Seattle to Port Townsend, via car and ferry) tackled the demolition of the plaster walls, as well as the removal of the asbestos shingles. This was no simple weekend project!

Photo Credit: Seattle Times

In addition to the logistics, predictable delays, and countless decisions relating to the design and craftsmanship of her new home, readers are given a glimpse into the inspiration and early musings of Erica's first novel, The School of Essential IngredientsI love the way in which Bauermeister intertwines architectural facts and history with that of her own life, as a wife, mother, and author.
In an odd way, marriages deal with many of the same maintenance issues. Our relationships need our attention as much, if not more, than our houses. And sometimes here, too, the romance of maintenance is that it has none. Caretaking in a relationship is not flowers or date night--necessary as these are, they are the equivalent of a new color painted on your walls. Delightful, but not structural. Structural is unloading the dishwasher when it's your partner's turn, or making sure whoever gets home last from work is greeted with dinner. It's learning about mushroom hunting or musical theater or rugby because your spouse loves it. It is talking about the best of your partner in public, not the worst. It's listening to stories we have heard a hundred times before as if they are new. Often, it is just listening, period. 
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you are well aware that I love the Pacific Northwest. Port Townsend is one of my favorite places to visit, and my husband and I have enjoyed camping in our RV at Point Hudson Marina and RV Park, often walking along the same streets that Bauermeister describes in her memoir.

I think it's time for a return visit to this charming town. And I will most definitely return to House Lessons. It's a keeper!

November 18, 2022

The Hobbit

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Fiction - Fantasy
1986 Del Rey Books (first published in 1937)
Finished on July 24, 2001
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Whisked away from his comfortable, unambitious life in his hobbit-hole in Bag End by Gandalf the wizard and a company of dwarves, Bilbo Baggins finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Although quite reluctant to take part in this quest, Bilbo surprises even himself by his resourcefulness and his skill as a burglar! Written for J.R.R. Tolkien's own children, The Hobbit met with instant success when published in 1937. Now, in 1997, this special new edition, illustrated by Alan Lee, commemorates the sixtieth anniversary of a great classic. 

My Original Thoughts (2001):

Anticlimactic! Started off great, but lost momentum toward the end. Easy to put down, but I didn't give up. I'm not sure if I'll read the trilogy--at least not for a while. I thought the Harry Potter books were more enjoyable from start to finish.

My Current Thoughts:

I probably would have enjoyed this more if I had read it after watching The Lord of the Rings film series, which I enjoyed immensely.

November 15, 2022

These Precious Days

Nonfiction - Essays
2021 Harper
Finished on November 7, 2022
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding)

Publisher's Blurb:

“Any story that starts will also end.”

As a writer, Ann Patchett knows what the outcome of her fiction will be. Life, however, often takes turns we do not see coming. Patchett ponders this truth in these wise essays that afford a fresh and intimate look into her mind and heart.

At the center of These Precious Days is the title essay, a surprising and moving meditation on an unexpected friendship that explores "what it means to be seen, to find someone with whom you can be your best and most complete self." When Patchett chose an early galley of actor and producer Tom Hanks' short story collection to read one night before bed, she had no idea that this single choice would be life changing. It would introduce her to a remarkable woman–Tom's brilliant assistant Sooki–with whom she would form a profound bond that held monumental consequences for them both.

A literary alchemist, Patchett plumbs the depths of her experiences to create gold: engaging and moving pieces that are both self-portrait and landscape, each vibrant with emotion and rich in insight. Turning her writer's eye on her own experiences, she transforms the private into the universal, providing us all a way to look at our own worlds anew, and reminds how fleeting and enigmatic life can be.

From the enchantments of Kate DiCamillo's children's books (author of the upcoming The Beatryce Prophecy) to youthful memories of Paris; the cherished life gifts given by her three fathers to the unexpected influence of Charles Schultz's Snoopy; the expansive vision of Eudora Welty to the importance of knitting, Patchett connects life and art as she illuminates what matters most. Infused with the author's grace, wit, and warmth, the pieces in These Precious Days resonate deep in the soul, leaving an indelible mark--and demonstrate why Ann Patchett is one of the most celebrated writers of our time.

Last night, I fell asleep composing a fan letter in my head to Ann Patchett. I have often thought of sending such a letter to several of my favorite authors, usually the moment I finish one of their terrific books, but I never follow through. Maybe this time I will.

I have always read more fiction than nonfiction, but when I pick up a nonfiction book, I gravitate toward memoirs and essays. I have read and loved several of Ann Patchett's novels, but These Precious Days is my first venture into her works of nonfiction. Anna Quindlen (Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake), Nora Ephron (I Feel Bad About My Neck), Laurie Colwin (Home Cooking), Barbara Kingsolver (Small Wonder), and Kelly Corrigan (Tell Me More) have written some of my favorite collections of essays. With over two dozen sticky notes littering my copy of These Precious Days, Patchett has joined ranks with that group of amazing authors. 

Typically, a book of essays has some great pieces along with some that don't resonate, but that doesn't hold true with These Precious Days; I loved each and every one of the twenty-two essays, as well as the introduction and epilogue. Like Quindlen, Ephron, Colwin, Kingsolver, and Corrigan, I would love to spend an afternoon, sipping a glass of wine while chatting with Patchett about her bookstore (which I visited last spring while visiting my daughter in Franklin), her novels (and the importance of good cover art), Nashville, Tom Hanks, and why we don't need four colanders and thirty-five dish towels. I would ask her about her favorite authors and which of their books she would recommend. (I love how she wrote about The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty, not just touching on Welty as an author, but speaking specifically about a few of her stories.) 

As I gulped down essay after essay, hopelessly ignoring my inner voice that kept telling me to slow down and savor them, I caught myself thinking about the connections I felt to this woman I had never met. Her husband had a heart scare that turned out not to be a heart attack. But the fear of loss was real, and a fear that I know all too well.
I remember again how valuable he is, how lucky we are. Karl isn't having a heart attack. Byron didn't know what might have caused the pain. Indigestion? Stress? It didn't matter. Karl is beside me. The meeting I'm missing doesn't matter, and Sparky is fine with his dog friends at the bookstore. For as many times as the horrible thing happens, a thousand times in every day the horrible thing passes us by. A meteor could be skating past Earth's atmosphere this very minute. We'll never know how close we came to annihilation, but today I saw it--everything I had and stood to lose and did not lose. Thanks to this fleeting clarity, the glow from the fluorescent tubes on the ceiling of this small cardiac recovery room lights up the entire world. 
I spent over a decade working in bookstores and can wholeheartedly agree with the joy of handselling:
As every reader knows, the social contract between you and a book you love is not complete until you hand that book to someone else and say, Here, you're going to love this. I always thought that sharing the books I loved with my students, requiring them to read those books, was the biggest perk of being a teacher. But at the bookstore, people who actually want my recommendations walk through the door all day long. The students were captives, the customers are volunteers.
Patchett writes about her personal experience with book jackets (and titles) that didn't live up to her expectations.
"Never judge a book by its cover" is a good way of saying that people shouldn't be evaluated on the basis of looks alone, but the adage doesn't apply to actual books. Where books are concerned, covers are what we have to go on. We might be familiar with the author's name or like the title, but absent that information, it's the jacket design--the size and shape of the font, the color, the image or absence of image--that makes us stop at the new releases table of our local independent bookstore and pick up one novel instead of another. Book covers should entice readers the way roses entice bees--like their survival depends on it.
I doubt I'm the only reader guilty of judging books by their cover art. While working in the bookstore, I could tell which face-outs would grab someone's attention and which would be quickly dismissed. I was thrilled when my husband's recent book was published with such an appealing cover. If only I were still working in a bookstore where I could place copies on the new release table, faced out on the appropriate shelf, and stacked neatly near each cash register. Oh, how I'd love to hand sell this book during the Christmas shopping season! Would Ann Patchett be drawn to Rod's beautiful book? And if so, would she pass it on to Tom Hanks? It never hurts to dream!

I can hardly wait to read Patchett's previous work of nonfiction, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, which I bought while visiting Parnassus last spring. She is such an exceptional writer!

November 11, 2022

Looking Back - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Science Fiction
1995 Turtleback Books (first published in 1979)
Finished on July 11, 2001
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox--the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? Why do we spend so much time between wearing digital watches? For all the answers stick your thumb to the stars. And don't forget to bring a towel!

My Original Thoughts (2001):

Enjoyable, but not a favorite. I enjoyed the novelty of the story more in the first half than in the second. A quick read with lots of catch-phrases that are probably well-known. "42." "The mice will see you now." "Resistance is useless." I might read more by Adams someday.

My Current Thoughts:

I haven't read anything else by Adams since reading this book. I'm not really a big fan of sci-fi.  

November 10, 2022

We Begin at the End

2020 Henry Holt and Company
Finished on November 3, 2022
Rating: 5/5 (Excellent!)

Winner of the Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel from the Crime Writers’ Association (UK)
Winner for Best International Crime Fiction from Australian Crime Writers Association
An Instant New York Times Bestseller

Publisher's Blurb:

There are two kinds of families: the ones we are born into and the ones we create. 

Walk has never left the coastal California town where he grew up. He may have become the chief of police, but he’s still trying to heal the old wound of having given the testimony that sent his best friend, Vincent King, to prison decades before. Now, thirty years later, Vincent is being released.

Duchess is a thirteen-year-old self-proclaimed outlaw. Her mother, Star, grew up with Walk and Vincent. Walk is in overdrive trying to protect them, but Vincent and Star seem bent on sliding deeper into self-destruction. Star always burned bright, but recently that light has dimmed, leaving Duchess to parent not only her mother but her five-year-old brother. At school the other kids make fun of Duchess―her clothes are torn, her hair a mess. But let them throw their sticks, because she’ll throw stones. Rules are for other people. She’s just trying to survive and keep her family together.

A fortysomething-year-old sheriff and a thirteen-year-old girl may not seem to have a lot in common. But they both have come to expect that people will disappoint you, loved ones will leave you, and if you open your heart it will be broken. So when trouble arrives with Vincent King, Walk and Duchess find they will be unable to do anything but usher it in, arms wide closed.

Chris Whitaker has written an extraordinary novel about people who deserve so much more than life serves them. At times devastating, with flashes of humor and hope throughout, it is ultimately an inspiring tale of how the human spirit prevails and how, in the end, love―in all its different guises―wins.

This book! I went into it completely cold, not even glancing at the publisher's blurb, but relying solely on the rave reviews of my fellow bloggers. I was not disappointed, and it will most definitely wind up on my Best of 2022 list. We Begin at the End took my breath away, made me angry, tugged at my heartstrings, and made me cry. I loved it. I loved the characters, who crawled into my subconscious, invading my dreams, lingering long after I finished reading. Duchess is one tough girl, swearing up a storm and prepared to take on anyone who threatens her family, especially her five-year-old brother, Robin. 

Part mystery, part coming-of-age, I was reminded of other deeply affecting novels with their tough, scrappy heroes, and kindness (and love) of strangersEventide (Kent Harruf), The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley (Hannah Tinti), The Book Thief (Markus Zusak) and The Homecoming of Samuel Lake (Jenny Wingfield). I loved the way Duchess grew as a character, learning to trust (and even love) those who opened their hearts and homes to her, in spite of her brittle and caustic personality.
Duchess just stared. Some days, mean and tough was hard to locate.

We Begin at the End is not an easy read. In addition to the profanity (which is not gratuitous), there is a fair amount of violence coupled with heartbreaking grief. And yet, this is an extraordinary novel that I won't easily forget. I'm already thinking about a second reading, while hoping for a sequel. 

See what others have to say:

I LOVED this book. From the riveting plot to the beautiful writing. But mostly what kept me longing to get back to it each day were the characters, especially young Duchess. Fierce, brave, vulnerable, she leaps off the page fully formed. As does Walk. How aptly named. A chief of police on his own inexorable journey. This is a book to be read and reread and an author to be celebrated. ~Louise Penny

Two damaged children--one timid and sweet, the other foul-mouthed and furious--will break readers' hearts in this well-plotted and perfectly paced novel. If, like me, you love stories that kidnap your intended schedule because you can't not keep turning the pages, then I wholeheartedly recommend Chris Whitaker's We Begin at the End. ~Wally Lamb 

November 9, 2022

Wordless Wednesday


Near Many Glacier Hotel & Swiftcurrent Lake
Glacier National Park
September 2022

This is the only grizzly bear we saw while in Glacier National Park. While I would have liked to have gotten a better shot with my zoom lens, I'm glad he wasn't too close!

Click on image for larger view.

November 5, 2022

A Month in Summary - October 2022

Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, Oregon
October 2022

We got rain! That probably sounds strange to those who think it always rains in the PNW, but we haven't had any significant rainfall since early June. Of course, now it will probably rain until next June, but as long as we get some sunshine here and there, I won't complain. It beats ice and snow!

Well, October turned out to be quite the eventful month. I'm surprised that I managed to finish one, let alone four books. One week after returning home from our big adventure to Glacier National Park, my husband wound up in the hospital after suffering a heart attack. Two stents later, he was home within 48 hours. We are very grateful to the first responders and medical team in the E.R. and cath lab, and are especially thankful we were not on the road, out of cellphone range! The other excitement (which was much more pleasant than his medical scare) was the arrival of a case-pack of Rod's latest book, Sailing by Starlight. (You can read my review here.) In spite of all the excitement, I finished the following books. 

Books Read (click on the title for my review):

The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff (2/5)

Book Lovers by Emily Henry (3/5)

Sailing by Starlight by Rod Scher (4.5/5)

To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie (4/5)

Movies & TV Series:

Guilt (Season Two) - Entertaining, but not as good as the first season. 

Mr. Harrigan's Phone - Based on the Stephen King short story of the same name. Good, but not great. The short story was better.

Five Days at Memorial - The first five episodes were very intense. The following episodes were ok, but not as impactful. I'm now interested in reading the book.

Van der Valk (Season 2) - We really enjoyed this second season!

Hinterland (Season 1 & 2) - I'm adding this show to my favorites list. It's marvelous!

MLB Playoffs - We were rooting for the Dodgers, but after they lost, we switched to the Padres. Now that the World Series has begun, we're rooting for the Phillies.

Other News:

Anatomy Lesson

Looking good and happy to be out of the hospital!

So proud of this man!


Catskill Moon by Jack Stuppin

While visiting my aunt this past summer, I had the pleasure of meeting Jack Stuppin, who was attending my uncle's memorial. My aunt surprised me with an autographed puzzle of one of Jack's beautiful paintings. Isn't it gorgeous? I love the vibrant colors! Click here to learn more about this amazing artist; I especially enjoyed the two videos on the website.

Hope you all have a good month. Don't forget to VOTE!

November 4, 2022

Looking Back - The Brethren

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

The Brethren by John Grisham
2000 Doubleday
Finished on July 6, 2001
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

They call themselves the Brethren: three disgraced former judges doing time in a Florida federal prison. One was sent up for tax evasion. Another, for skimming bingo profits. The third for a career-ending drunken joyride.

Meeting daily in the prison law library, taking exercise walks in their boxer shorts, these judges-turned-felons can reminisce about old court cases, dispense a little jailhouse justice, and contemplate where their lives went wrong. Or they can use their time in prison to get very rich—very fast. ...

My Original Thoughts (2001):

It took me quite a while to get interested, but I eventually did. Perhaps I struggled because I took the book to our family reunion and only read a little at a time. The book became more suspenseful after a hundred pages or so, and a big part of the plot was a huge surprise. Typical Grisham thriller that reads like a Hollywood screenplay. Anticlimactic ending, though. Mindless entertainment.

My Current Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Grisham's books, back in the day, but this one doesn't sound like one that I'd like to read again.

November 2, 2022

To Dwell in Darkness


Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Series #16
2014 William Morrow
Finished on October 28, 2022
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

In the tradition of Elizabeth George, Louise Penny, and P. D. James, "New York Times" bestselling author Deborah Crombie delivers a powerful tale of intrigue, betrayal, and lies that will plunge married London detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James into the unspeakable darkness that lies at the heart of murder.

Recently transferred to the London borough of Camden from Scotland Yard headquarters, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his new murder investigation team are called to a deadly bombing at historic St. Pancras Station. By fortunate coincidence, Melody Talbot, Gemma s trusted colleague, witnesses the explosion. The victim was taking part in an organized protest, yet the other group members swear the young man only meant to set off a smoke bomb. As Kincaid begins to gather the facts, he finds every piece of the puzzle yields an unexpected pattern, including the disappearance of a mysterious bystander.

The bombing isn't the only mystery troubling Kincaid. He's still questioning the reasons behind his transfer, and when his former boss who's been avoiding him is attacked, those suspicions deepen. With the help of his former sergeant, Doug Cullen, Melody Talbot, and Gemma, Kincaid begins to untangle the truth. But what he discovers will leave him questioning his belief in the job that has shaped his life and his values and remind him just how vulnerable his precious family is.

Deborah Crombie continues to entertain with her well-plotted Kincaid/Duncan mystery series! As with Louise Penny's books, I enjoy reading about the regular cast of characters, and their on-going relationships, almost as much as the mysteries themselves. To Dwell in Darkness kept me guessing and reading long after I should have turned out the light. I had to chuckle when I read the following, as I've always wondered the same:
Ellis nodded and Jasmine went to the kitchen, returning with a glass of tap water. Kincaid wondered, not for the first time, why a glass of water was considered a remedy for shock or grief. But Ellis drank it obediently, like a child told to take medicine, and set the almost empty glass on the end table.

I was left with many questions about Kincaid's new position in Holborn, which I hope will be answered in the next installment. Crombie's cliff-hangers are beginning to feel like those of Louise Penny's. Thankfully, I have the next book ready to read and don't have to wait a year or more for its release!

October 31, 2022

Nonfiction November 2022

I love this reading challenge just as much as the 20 Books of Summer event. I've been saving several of my nonfiction books specifically for this challenge and I can't wait to dive in. I cheated a little bit by reading Sailing by Starlight before the official start of the challenge, but I'm sure you all understand why. 😊

Click here for details about this annual reading event. 

Have you read any of these books? Which do you recommend?

October 30, 2022

Sailing by Starlight

Sailing by Starlight: The Remarkable Story of Globe Star by Rod Scher
2022 Sheridan House
Finished on October 24, 2022
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good!)

Publication Date: November 1, 2022

Publisher's Blurb:

Sailing by Starlight is the story of the adventure of a lifetime--in fact, of many lifetimes. In the early 1980s, retired geography professor Marvin Creamer set out to do what hadn't been done for a thousand years--if indeed it had ever been done at all: Marv and his crew boarded a 35-foot sailboat named Globe Star and set out into the frigid Atlantic, planning to sail around the world without the use of any instruments. There was no sextant aboard. No compass. No chart-plotter. No GPS. No radar. Not even a stopwatch. Creamer wanted to prove to the world that it was possible for ancient mariners to have crossed the largest seas, perhaps even sailed around the world, using only their brains, their experience, their senses, and their courage. In attempting to prove his point, Creamer would push his boat and his crew to the limit--and occasionally beyond. 

Travel with Creamer as Globe Star sails around the perilous Horn, across the dangerous and tumultuous Tasman Sea, and into an active war zone. Sail around the world with a man who was taken prisoner with an idea, a man obsessed with proving a point, and a man who would let neither 40-foot waves nor fractious crewmembers deter him.

Disclaimer: I was hesitant to post a review, as this book was written by my husband, but I want to share what I enjoyed about the story. I hope to minimize my personal bias.

I am not what you would call an avid sailor. My family owned a small sailboat (a Glen-L 13) when I was in elementary school, and I remember lake sailing with my parents and brothers (and our small dog) in Northern California and Southern Oregon. How we all managed to fit in that tiny sailboat is beyond me!

Photo Credit: Glen-L Boat Designs

Later, I would enjoy going out on Hobie Cats and a few 20-plus foot sailboats in San Diego, but I can count those occasions on one hand. In the late 80s, my husband and I started dreaming about buying a Catalina, but a move to Nebraska took the wind out of our sails, so to speak. Looking back, I wonder just how much I would have enjoyed spending time on a boat on the Pacific Ocean. It's huge, unpredictable and the waves are much bigger than those on the lakes of Whiskey Town and Howard Prairie. And I am prone to seasickness!

Rod has always been enthusiastic about sailing, reading numerous books on the subject (he's read Chapman: The Boater's Handbook more than once), and dreaming of one day owning a boat. Nautical books (even sailing memoirs) weren't of interest to me, but Rod had a copy of Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steve Callahan, and with all our talks about sailing, I decided to give it a read sometime in the late 80s. I don't remember much about the book, but after recently glancing at a copy, I discovered that Callahan's voyage began just shy of two years before Marv Creamer's. I wonder if they knew one another. If not personally, they certainly must have known of each other. 

Rod and I never did buy a boat, but we've cruised the San Juan Islands (on a 48' Richardson cabin cruiser) with my dad and stepmom, as well as a wonderful day trip on a catamaran from St. Thomas to St. John. I've also had the pleasure of spending two weeks on a river boat, cruising the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers with my mom. But all these experiences were peaceful and calm. Well, almost all. We did experience a problem with the bilge pump on my dad's boat; for several moments I was afraid the boat might start to sink, and we would have to swim to shore in the dark! Oh, and there was also the time (actually, there were two separate instances) when a fan belt broke on one of the two engines (again in my dad's boat) and we had to limp along, in Puget Sound, on one engine to reach a marina for repairs. But none of these events were as terrifying as those that Marv Creamer and his crew faced as they sailed around the world without any instrumentation: no GPS, no compass, no sextant, not even a clock or watch. And, their amazing adventure took place on the Globe Star, a 35-foot sailboat. They experienced gales, huge seas, fog in heavily traveled shipping lanes, and the doldrums. They went for many weeks without seeing land, nor speaking to anyone but one another. 

While chatting with Rod about Sailing by Starlight (from the safe perch of one of our neighborhood benches overlooking the ocean, watching the enormous waves crash against the bluff), I told him that I would have curled up in a ball in the v-berth, sobbing in terror, if I had to be on such a voyage at Creamer's. I'm sure even an experienced sailor would feel some fear and anxiety with each crashing wave, a galley fire, or a knockdown, but they would also know what to do in those situations. At least if a disaster strikes while we're traveling in our motorhome, there's very little risk of drowning! 

Sailing by Starlight is a compelling read about a sixty-six-year-old retired geography professor who was able to fulfill a lifetime dream and prove that ancient peoples could sail across massive oceans (perhaps even around the world) without anything but their intellect, bravery and senses. I was pleased to discover that over the years, I've picked up a general understanding of some basic nautical terminology in my brief encounters on boats: port & starboard, cleats & fenders, fore & aft, fo'c'sle & salon, and coming-about and jibe (the latter of which I accidentally discovered off the shores of Beaufort, N.C.). So, as I began reading Rod's book, I wasn't bothered by the usage of specific vernacular known to more seasoned sailors. Initially, I thought a glossary might be useful, but flipping back and forth would only interrupt the narrative, causing a loss in momentum and tension. Any words or phrases with which I was not familiar (e.g., horse latitudes, heave-to, windlass), were easily understood in the context of the passage. 

Rich in detail, with mounting tension, Sailing by Starlight is sure to appeal to a broad range of readers, avid sailors and armchair travelers not excluded. Rod sets the scenes so vividly, delivering an ultra-satisfying read for which he should be enormously proud. I know I am.

It's rare that I reread books, and even more rare that I'm tempted to re-read a book upon completion, but I felt that way about Sailing by Starlight. I'm not interested in owning a boat, but I do enjoy a thrilling nautical tale. Maybe it's time to finally give Moby Dick another chance...

Note to reader: I rarely read an author's footnotes, whether included on the appropriate page or in a collection at the back of the book. I encourage you to read Sailing by Starlight "Notes," which provide additional information that would otherwise have detracted from the flow of the narrative.

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