It is rare that I read a novel I can’t shake. But his month’s book club selection took root in my mind in a way that few novels can. I woke up thinking about it. I pondered the story and characters as I went about my day. And now, over a month later, it is still present with me.
It is the summer of 1914 and Europe is on the brink of war, but Grace Winter’s future finally seems secure as she and her new husband set sail for New York, where she hopes to win over a disapproving and status-conscious mother-in-law. When a mysterious explosion sinks their ship, Grace is thrust into a lifeboat by a quick-witted crew member, who climbs in after her even though the boat is already filled beyond capacity.
As the weather deteriorates and the passengers are forced to choose sides in a brewing power struggle, Grace realizes that her survival could depend on whether she backs the ruthless but experienced John Hardie or the enigmatic but increasingly forceful Ursula Grant. Over the course of three perilous weeks, the lifeboat passengers plot, scheme, gossip and console one another while questioning their deepest assumptions about goodness, humanity and God.
Grace is finally rescued, only to be put on trial for her life. Unsure what to make of their client, Grace’s attorneys suggest she write her story down. The result is a page-turning tale of moral dilemmas, and also a haunting portrait of a woman as unforgettable and complicated as the events she describes.
Stay tuned for further details about this month’s giveaway
What I loved most about this book is that Grace Winter is an unreliable narrator. She may not be who she leads us to believe and the story may not have really happened the way she tells it. To me there is nothing more delicious than a mystery buried within a narrative, especially when the characters are so unforgettable.
Three times while reading THE LIFEBOAT I woke up in the middle of the night after dreaming that I had been aboard Lifeboat 14 with Grace Winter, the other passengers…and my children. And I had to wonder (still am do a matter of fact) what lengths I would go to in order to keep my family alive in such a situation. This is a can’t-put-down-novel. And one that will inspire vigorous debate within your book club.
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