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COMING ABOUT by Susan Tyler Hitchcock

COMING ABOUT

A Family Passage at Sea

By Susan Tyler Hitchcock

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-345-40663-X
Publisher: Ballantine

From freelance writer Hitchcock, the chronicle of a nine-month sailing journey through the Caribbean that has the atmosphere of an overly long, amateur family-therapy session. Hitchcock and her husband were disgruntled with their lives, and she in particular felt the centrifugal force of everyday life pulling her away from her two children, John, who was eight, and Alison, six: “We needed something to pull us together.” That something was a nice, long cruise aboard her father-in-law’s 34-foot, turquoise-bedecked sloop, the Hei Tiki (named after the Maori fertility god). They cut a narrow swath down from the Bahamas to the Grenadines and back, and though they make many a landfall, Hitchcock isn’t really interested in the places, their histories, or the singularities of their landscapes and cultures. Nor is she captivated by the many faces of the sea. She is interested in her family’s dynamics. Her husband is an old salt, but she is a lubber and feels the sting of her incompetence, and he evidently isn’t spare in dishing out the criticism. Indeed, he comes across as a grump and a control freak, rarely happy unless tinkering with the engine or having sex with Hitchcock. (Her detailings of their numerous coital interludes are wincingly blunt and unerotic.) Her kids are troopers, but their every little quibble—over sleeping arrangements, over toys—is itemized. And Hitchcock is quick to share all emotions washing her way, from the anger she feels when her husband all too often abandons her with the kids to her antsy response to being stuck in port to the travails attending her “morning dump,” where her husband weighs in with some snide advice. A grand voyage reduced to trivialities; one wonders what might have been the result if Hitchcock had for a moment stopped looking within and taken a gander around.