Psychologist and former actress Stephenson (Billy, 2002, etc.) leaves her glamorous L.A. life for a literary sail in the South Seas.
The author was ready for adventure after 20 years of pursuing a career and taking care of her children. She had been reading about Fanny and Robert Louis Stevenson’s late-19th-century voyages among the South Seas islands in search of a salubrious climate for Robert’s ailing health. He suffered from tuberculosis and had been a semi-invalid most of his life. A divorcée 11 years her husband’s senior, Fanny was unflaggingly resourceful, and her spirit of adventure inspired Stephenson to make her own mid-life voyage. She procured a 112-foot Florida sloop, renamed it Takapuna after her New Zealand birthplace and refitted it with all the modern trimmings. She took a crash course in sailing, though she also took the precaution of hiring a professional captain and crew, and learned to handle guns in case of attack by pirates. (Yes, they still exist, though now they’re “entirely unromantic scoundrels with balaclavas in lieu of eyepatches.”) And off she went, with transient family members and friends on board, just as hurricane season was getting underway. From Florida they sailed around Cuba to Panama, the Galápagos and on to the various clusters of South Seas islands from the Marquesas to the Marshalls. The trip logged 19,000 nautical miles in nine months, tracking the Stevensons’ long-ago, pioneering extended stays among the Samoans and other tribes they warmly befriended. Accompanying Stephenson’s cheery chronicle are excerpts from diaries and letters chronicling her predecessors’ trip. “In some of these islands . . . it was, a little while ago, a dangerous possession to own a good set of teeth, as many people were murdered for them,” writes Fanny in one of the many nifty passages illuminating the area’s archaeology and history. The literary connection is tenuous, but Stephenson’s you-go-girl tone is earnest and endearing.
Pretty pictures and map sketches help make this a dreamy, empowering retirement fantasy.