ALMOST TOO LATE by Elmo Wortman

ALMOST TOO LATE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The stirring true story of a father and his three children trapped on an Alaskan island in midwinter. Wortman, 52 and divorced, was a rheumatic carpenter on Social Security disability living with his children--Cindy (16), Randy (15), and Jena Lynn (12)--on a floathouse at Port Refugio, where southeast Alaska joins British Columbia. Returning from a dental visit to nearby Prince Rupert, they were caught in a blizzard at sea just as Wortman came down with the flu; and after three nightmarishly sleepless days, they found themselves shipwrecked on a rocky island. Everything went wrong--they separated in the thundering surf, they could salvage almost nothing from the crumbling yacht. Starving, they spent days moving to a cove; then, built a raft. Thinking they were near a familiar island, Wortman and Randy set off for a cabin they knew about, to radio for help--leaving Cindy and Jena Lynn behind, under a sail. After all, they expected to be back in three hours. The cabin turned out to be seven miles off, and under a heavy snow; when Wortman and Randy reached it, their radio failed and their feet swelled so badly they couldn't walk for three days, until they improvised crutches from metal oars. They were clearly too sick to paddle back for the girls, in freezing weather under the wet sail; and two weeks of unrelenting guilt passed before they had strength enough to move the raft and set back to recover the girls' bodies. But they were alive! Skeletal, sore-ridden, but living. Simply told, but gripping--as much for its horrors of guilt as its blistering man-against-nature theme.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Random House