Though the story is clouded with public skepticism, this is a fascinating, action-packed account of long-term survival on...

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438 DAYS

AN EXTRAORDINARY TRUE STORY OF SURVIVAL AT SEA

One man’s grueling odyssey across the Pacific Ocean on a crippled 25-foot fishing vessel.

Documentarian and journalist Franklin (33 Men: Inside the Miraculous Survival and Dramatic Rescue of the Chilean Miners, 2011) meticulously re-creates the harrowing voyage of Salvador Alvarenga, a fisherman whose boat lost motor power hours after leaving the coast of Mexico and was cast adrift upon the ocean in November 2012. Since his arrival in the fishing village of Costa Azul four years prior, optimistic Alvarenga managed a unique work-life balance where “four-day drinking binges might be followed by ten days of non-stop fishing. Or vice versa.” It was during one of these lengthy fishing trips when he and young shipmate Ezequiel Cordoba ran into trouble. Expertly culled together from nine months of recollective personal interviews with Alvarenga as well as official search-and-rescue documentation, Franklin describes what was intended as a 30-hour expedition, but one that ran into stormy weather (forewarned to him by the boat’s owner). As much as the men attempted to navigate and stabilize through the squall, the boat’s motor, radio, and GPS all failed, blowing them far off course and well beyond the Mexican Coast Guard’s limited reach. The ensuing months aboard the boat form an exhaustive, unnerving, and exquisitely surreal survival narrative as Alvarenga, becoming increasingly imperiled and helpless, began implementing desperate self-preservation tactics in order to fend off starvation, dehydration, scurvy, and hungry oceanic predators. More than a year later, in early 2014, Alvarenga was discovered naked and delirious in the Marshall Islands, 5,500 miles away from where he initially set sail (Cordoba died several months into the journey). Though Franklin admits to initially doubting the veracity of Alvarenga’s story (“Who survives 14 months at sea?”), his vicarious documentation ultimately became “an adventure and an education that I will never forget.” Meanwhile, Alvarenga now celebrates the innumerable “small pleasures” of the simple life on land.

Though the story is clouded with public skepticism, this is a fascinating, action-packed account of long-term survival on the open seas.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1629-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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