Book Review of Into My Father's Wake
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Book Review of: Into My Father's Wake

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Review of Into My Father's Wake, by Author (Hardcover, 2011)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

This book just grabs you and does not let go until the end. Writing in a style that is rich in detail yet moves quickly through the action, Eric Best brings the reader along a round trip across 5,000 miles of ocean and a lifetime of emotions, failures, hopes, and dreams.

The author provides us with an account of this harrowing solo journey from San Francisco to Hawaii and back, through storms, fatigue, galley gaffes, and repeated battles against the feelings of desperation and despair. But he's also taking an inner journey, along which he seeks to resolve conflicts that have long haunted and undermined him. On that journey, also, he deals with storms and fatigue--but of the emotional kind.

While his central conflict on that trans-Pacific trip is with the ocean (which, he realizes, doesn't care if he lives or dies), his central conflict on his emotional journey is with his father. And thus, the title of the book. Those four words also end the last sentence of the book.

I don't do sailing, but I do climbing. People sometimes say, "I could never do that. I'm afraid of heights." My response is, "I have that same fear. I confront it with every climb." In Eric's case, it wasn't a fear of sailing but a fear of isolation. He could have take this trip with a companion, but instead made the journey by himself. And in so doing, he confronted his fear and (barely) overcame it.

This book isn't a novel, because it's a real-life account. But the author writes like a novelist. Novelists work hard to maintain what they call "tension." This is what keeps the reader on the edge of his/her seat, or at least interested enough to keep turning the pages. Too little tension, and the reader grows bored. Too much tension without a break in it, and the story becomes a burden. In this book, the author adroitly raises and breaks the attention. You can't help but become so enthralled you just keep reading.

So, it is a well-written biographical account of events? Not exactly. Because in this story, the author shares his thoughts, doubts, and fears as each problem or crises occurs. Or even may occur. For example, he's frequently plagued by the specter of being run over by a freighter (a fatal event for a 47-foot ketch like the Feo he's sailing). And he shows us the demons that arise when he can't make a sure determination of where he is.

Ah, so that makes it a self-help book? Not exactly. The author doesn't cheerily conclude with a 12-step program or ten tips for changing your life. If you can empathize with the author as you read along, and it's hard not to, you'll probably find that you're gaining the same insights he gained on this trip. I didn't mull over these "lessons learned" while reading the book, as it kept me riveted to its pages. But after completing the book, I realized that the real story here wasn't about the sailing.

This book would make an excellent resource for any group study focused on learning from life. For example, I can see a philosophy class using this book as the basis for some pretty deep and interesting discussions. Any college literature program that still makes students read The Great Gatsby can replace that book with this one.

Note to Sunday School teachers: While this book would be excellent in many ways for your use, it does contain a few blue words that your group won't be comfortable saying aloud in class.

Into My Father's Wake probably won't join the fluff pieces that have dominated the business genre over the past few years, but any manager or executive should put it on his/her personal required reading list.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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