A spiritually lost man makes a mystical journey across the Atlantic in this philosophical novel.
Three years ago, Jay Danforth Fitzgerald steered his sailboat, the aptly named Solitaire, into Charleston Harbor. With three failed marriages behind him, Fitz fled New York intent on a wayward life of adventure. Though he sees himself as a “renegade man…and a truant of polite society,” not the sort content “to be furloughed to golf courses,” he’s been dallying in South Carolina for reasons he can’t quite explain. His quiet routine is disrupted when he meets Gemma Kelley, a young Irish spitfire, over pints of Guinness at a local dive. She challenges his cynical take on love, but a violent barroom brawl interrupts what seems like a budding romance. Fearing arrest, Fitz makes the supremely illogical—and dangerous—decision to sail his rickety boat to Ireland. He puts his suicide mission on pause when he discovers Gemma stowed away onboard. What happens next will challenge Fitz’s preconceived notions of life, love, and faith and force a reckoning with unexamined traumas from the past. Hurley (Tales from the Camino, 2016, etc.) fearlessly tackles big issues in his finely crafted novel, as Fitz and his fellow travelers ponder the nature of love, the morality of abortion, and the paralyzing power of grief and guilt. Astute readers will quickly guess Gemma is not quite who she appears to be, but the story’s supernatural elements seem authentic, not hokey, as they serve to explore larger questions of faith and belief. That the author has a way with words helps tremendously, and everything from explanations of sailing techniques to descriptions of a violent squall at sea, where “breaking waves [are] like warring armies,” is rendered with painstaking detail. Occasionally, the cerebral musings veer toward the pretentious, but for the most part this is an insightful look at how people come to terms with the choices and mistakes they’ve made.
A thoughtful and poetic story of a voyager accepting, and then moving beyond, his personal failures.