My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Goodreads: Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.
In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.
As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found. Will she pay any price to keep it?
The Lifeboat is a page-turning novel of hard choices and survival, narrated by a woman as unforgettable and complex as the events she describes.
My take: The Empress Alexander has sunk and some of the passengers escaped on lifeboats. That is where we begin this story, in the lifeboat and on the first day. Grace, the protagonist, made it onto a lifeboat and we see the events and the people through her eyes. In some ways it is a literal recounting of the 21 days on the lifeboat as Grace is writing journal entries to remember each day and event as she sits in a jail cell in Boston. The crime is not currently clear but will be explained, day by day, how the group changes and power shifts. What will each of the life boat members do to survive? What will they sacrifice?
In some ways, the book reminded me of Life of Pi. It is also an allegory for society. In the microcosm of the lifeboat, power, sacrifice, greed, and convention along with God are all touched upon and change like the weather and waves. In the vast ocean, one tiny lifeboat could be overlooked. Does anybody know they are there? Does anybody care? Who is in charge? Who can save them?
The book is riveting and, at times, disturbing. Great book club book with many themes left for discussion.