THE HUNGRY OCEAN by Linda Greenlaw


A Swordboat Captain's Journey
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A precise account of what happens aboard a swordfishing boat on the Grand Banks when it is not being terrorized by a perfect storm, from a captain among the fleet. It was Greenlaw’s sister ship, Andrea Gail, that went down in the Halloween storm of 1991, a tragedy recounted by Sebastian Junger in his bestselling book. Here it is Greenlaw’s intention to tell the story of a more typical swordfishing trip, how she manages the boat, crew, and fishing during the month they will be together at sea pulling a 40-mile longline. And she does tease from the everyday a fixating description of the fisherman’s (“fisherwoman . . . I hate the term”) shipboard day, preparing for and pulling in the harvest, contending with that temperamental nuisance known as the weather, judging bait or her boss (“very pushy and never satisfied”); she makes clear the importance of a good cook: “times of bad food were also periods of serious crew problems.” Then there is the simple nature of the work, the hundreds of hours of arduous physical labor squeezed in a few weeks, under brutal conditions, that you might not get paid for. Greenlaw comes across as a savvy captain with a knack for knowing the mood of both her crew and the weather (and no shrinking violet: “The meek may inherit the Earth, but they’ll never get my piece of the ocean”). Yet there is a spit and polish to her writing that feels distant from the subject, not so much overwritten as manufactured. There is a noticeable lack of sting and fear when things go wrong. Absent as well are doubts or confusions Greenlaw might have understandably entertained about this or that, which undercuts any rawness or immediacy demanded by the retelling of events. Still, this is a welcome flip side to the multitude of hellzapoppin’ peril-at-sea stories, a world apart in its rhythms but often as not just as riveting. (photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 12th, 1999
ISBN: 0-7868-6451-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1999


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