A disgraced lawyer finds friends and purpose on the island of Ocracoke in North Carolina when he gets the chance to help refurbish and race a mysterious schooner.
Aidan Sharpe was a shining star and partner in his Raleigh law firm until, trying to cover for a fellow attorney, he makes a serious error in judgment that loses him his law license. Aidan’s mentor advises him to visit an old Navy buddy, Father Marcus, on Ocracoke. The pitch is: “He enjoys the company of washed up, self-loathing bastards like yourself. He could also use someone’s help around the rectory.” Marcus cares deeply for his parishioners, but he isn’t perfect himself, leading the island’s AA meetings while enjoying nightly visits to bottles of leftover Communion wine he’s buried around the beach. Aidan soon acquires more friends, including Molly McGregor, a towboat operator, and an enemy, Rowdy Ponteau, a rich-kid deadbeat who attacked Molly in a local bar. At sea, the group finds a strange schooner more than a century old. A plan develops to repair the Prodigal and race her against Ponteau’s crew. Hurley (Once Upon a Gypsy Moon, 2013, etc.) writes an intriguing, well-plotted and multilayered novel whose heroes are interestingly flawed. In various ways, they struggle with faith, whether in God or other human beings. The supernatural elements—a religious relic, a gypsy woman out of legend—are thoughtfully handled. Hurley writes beautifully, especially in depicting nautical and island life: “The shake-shingle cottages in the village were gnarled and weathered, and each year their frames bent lower to the mossy earth, like old washerwomen….The island itself seemed slump-shouldered and in need of a haircut and a hot bath.” In a few instances, Hurley overdoes the sweetness (real alcoholism is a serious disease, not a lovable weakness), but in most cases, he balances affection with tough-mindedness. The work satisfyingly explores several themes: mystery, genuine teamwork, adventure and love.
Stirring, romantic and evocative of the sea’s magic.