GOING OVERBOARD by Lucy Gwin

GOING OVERBOARD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A woman's place in the offshore oilfields: frank, gritty, and (mostly) unfazed. Lucy Gwin, age 35 and batting zero (marriage, children, work), headed for the booming Gulf Coast in 1979 and--after a brutal rape by her drunken, ""no prize"" lover--got a job as cook for the five-man-crew of the Harbor Pride; ""a giant, seedy queen, rolling on rusty haunches,"" that ferries supplies to the oil rigs out in the Gulf. Her attachment grows as she gets to know the crew, learns their lingo, succumbs to the ocean and the ""sky show."" When Guste, the ship's ""coonass"" captain (""the Coast-correct, if vulgar"" term for Cajun), encourages her to try her hand on deck, Lucy jumps to it. She stacks anchor chain, ""sixty pounds at a time, in the depths of what sailors call The Hole."" She doggedly practices lassoing the tall deck bitts. She cleans out the cement-storage tanks (""the dust, the dust""). All the while, she's pretending ""I was Woman. . . [but] only rescuing myself from the rape."" She's rising to the challenge, responding to cheers: ""But I wonder now about the boys and men who climb into those tanks. . . with nothing to prove. . . . For them it's simply hell work."" Then, she gets her comeuppance: a different captain (""I'm the cap'n. You the cook. Cook pours coffee for the cap'n."") and other complainers have her fired. Now, ruefully, Wonder Woman, she gets a job as a deckhand on the Buck, has a dismal affair with the co-captain (two bodies meeting in ""the Alone Zone""), and is fired. On successive ships, Lucy gets better and the going gets tougher. Jobs get scarcer and scarcer. At the top of her form, she's told: ""Yeah, but you can't do it and remain a lady. . . ."" Finally, convinced that she's being illegally discriminated against, she files suit. After a brief reprieve comes a no-joke dunking, a near-framing (for marijuana possession), a last betrayal: fatherly Guste turns torrid. So it's goodbye to the beloved boats--where, however, ""more than twenty women"" work as deckhands now. Reading this, you might wonder why--except that the allure comes across as strong as the crud.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1982
Publisher: Viking