The Stranger in the Lifeboat

In the end, there is the sea and the land and the news that happened between them. To spread that news, we tell each other stories. Sometimes he stories are about survival. And sometimes those stories, like the presence of the Lord, are hard to believe. Unless believing is what makes them true.

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Mitch Albom is the author of Tuesdays with Morrie, which is one of my all time favourite books. I also loved the Five People You Meet in Heaven by the same author. However, I was a little let down by his subsequent books- Have a Little Faith, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, For One More Day.

Having said that, I fell in love with Albom all over again with his latest book The Stranger in the Boat. It felt like treading on the same familiar ground that I walked on in Tuesdays with Morrie.

The premise of the book is fairly straightforward. Except it isn’t.

We find ourselves at sea with ten survivors from a luxury yacht that just sank in a freak accident. We see everything through the eyes of our main protagonist, Benjamin. He narrates his experiences through a letter he writes to his wife Annabelle. Through the eyes of Benjamin, we are introduced to the other ten survivors, who come from all different backgrounds and ages.

While out at sea, with dwindling ration support, they spot another man floating, and manage to rescue him and get him on their raft. As they seek to find out who he is, the mysterious man simply introduces himself as “I am the Lord.”

This naturally causes a lot of confusion and debate amongst the rest of the group. How could a man survive out in the sea unharmed? Is he who he says he is? How come he doesn’t talk much? Is he really God?

It would be a crime for me to go ahead and share what happens in the rest of the book so I won’t go any further. At times, I was expecting the story to dive into themes of spirituality and God like we experienced in Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Thankfully, it doesn’t go into that direction, and instead hold on to its own strength.

Each chapter is split into three parts: Sea, Land and News. Sea is where we see the events unfold through the eyes of Benjamin. Land is where we see the events unfold as an inspector and an assistant try to understand why the luxury boat sank. They also try to understand how an empty raft washed ashore. New is where we see the events being discussed on the the news channel where we get an idea of who the owner of the yacht is and why this voyage was so important.

Also, there were some insane twists that I honestly didn’t see coming, and when they did come, it only made me want to furiously finish the book to see what it was all about.

There were moments in the book that made me question what I would have done if I were in such a situation. It did me make me think what my role is in the grand scheme of things in life. It also made me realise how much more powerful and enriching our lives can be if we can break down barriers and connect with strangers.

The Stranger in the Boat is essentially a book about fate, destiny, luck, belief, the mysteriousness of life, God and ultimately our place in the world. It is also about the hope that we possess in moments of danger and the ultimate power of love that can help us survive such moments.

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