A man sails along America’s east coast on a journey of self-discovery and spiritual insight in this debut memoir.
At 63, Merck had the sort of contented existence many hope for in the final third of their lives: He’d had a successful career, owned a home that he was deeply connected to, and had developed a mindfulness that kept him remarkably self-aware. Yet this very awareness alerted him to a great, inner discontent, which caused him to undertake a journey to become more engaged with the world. He left his old life behind to sail along the country’s eastern shore, exploring both the sea and his autocratic nature while grappling with his fear of loneliness. Along the way, he was joined by other sailors, but it was the presence of his son, Evan, and Merck’s fiery, infuriating love interest, Samantha, that finally forced him to face his emotional pain and spiritual restlessness. This memoir, grandiose in tone, invokes a classical sentimentality that values feelings over experiences, and, as such, emphasizes the author’s personal feelings over the people and places around him. However, when the book looks beyond its narrator, the dialogue is strong, and although it doesn’t greatly expound upon many characters, it captures Evan and Samantha well. There are occasional forays into the author’s life before the age of 60, but the book puts great emphasis on the physical act of traveling—on always going somewhere—which gives the story a feeling of forward momentum. The memoir doesn’t come to a solid conclusion, a fact perhaps foreshadowed in the words of a minister early in the book: “We put a lot of care and love into how we begin...the exit door comes without the same amount of thoughtfulness.” This is forgivable, however, as Merck seems to be only getting a handle on these new ideas himself. Overall, the book will likely leave many readers wanting to sail with him just a bit longer.
A sentimental, introspective travel memoir.