April Book Club Selection

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.

I give you THE LIFEBOAT by Charlotte Rogan:


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.

Click here to read an excerpt.

 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.


Charlotte Rogan graduated from Princeton University in 1975. She worked at various jobs, mostly in the fields of architecture and engineering, before teaching herself to write and staying home to bring up triplets. An old criminal law text and her childhood experiences among a family of sailors provided inspiration for  The Lifeboat, her first novel. After many years in Dallas and a year in Johannesburg, she and her husband now live in Westport, Connecticut.
The Lifeboat traps the reader in a story that is exciting at the literal level and brutally moving at the existential. I read it in one go. ”  –Emma Donoghue, author of New York Times bestseller of ROOM
Charlotte Rogan uses a deceptively simple narrative of shipwreck and survival to explore our all-too-human capacity for self-deception. ”  –JM Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and author of Waiting for the Barbarians
What a splendid book. It rivets the reader’s attention, and at the same time it seethes with layered ambiguity. ”  –Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links. ” This means if you click on the link and purchase the book, She Reads will receive an affiliate commission. These commissions help us pay for the site and the services we offer. Regardless, we only recommend books that we have read and loved.  


2 Responses to April Book Club Selection

  1. Melissa Hambrick April 5, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    Just finished it last night…really wonderful book! Can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks!

  2. gretasnana April 11, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    Finished the book this evening and can’t stop thinking about it. A simple story with so many nuances. You had to think as you read. Thank you for choosing this story to read this month.

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