In the vein of “Dead Wake” by Erik Larson, “Adrift” is a larger-than-life true story about survival in the midst of the most impossible circumstances. It is, in turn, shocking, tragic, and inspiring. And worth your time if you love nonfiction.
Brian Murphy weaves the story of the fated ship John Rutledge into a greater fabric of ships sailing into dangerously icy waters in 1856, one of the deadliest years for sea travel on record. By placing his story against a larger backdrop, Murphy is able to make the survival of a single sailor aboard the John Rutledge all the more remarkable.
Any history junkie will enjoy the unique details Murphy is able to cull from historical records. Even the story of the lone survivor, Thomas Nye, is filled with “bonus content” that includes pleasurable rabbit trails of stories about his extended family. As the amount of information the reader is given grows, you will begin to feel as if you too have spent time in the myriad of libraries, museums, and historical sites that Murphy visited to put together his book.
Murphy did take some liberties with dialogue and thoughts ascribed to various people in the story, but I was able to forgive him for this based on two things. First, this is the style of many best sellers in this genre lately, including the books by Erik Larson. Second, Murphy addressed his decision to do this before the book even began, in an Author’s Note. The extra dialogue, which he separated from actual documented words by not using quotation marks, did add to the narrative flow of the story, which I’m betting was his intention.
By the time I finished this book, I was astonished that I had not heard the story of the John Rutledge and Thomas Nye before. I was sad it had never found its way into any of the many historical classes I had taken in school. And I was glad to have stumbled upon it now.
The final test of a good book was one that “Adrift” passed. I spent the hours after I finished forcing my family to listen, in great detail, to the tragic story of the John Rutledge and the other ships lost in the same sea that year, and to the inspiring story of Thomas Nye, who lived to share what had happened. I couldn’t stop talking about it. Nye’s story, interpreted through the skilled pen of Brian Murphy, is one I would definitely recommend you pick up.
Da Capo Press provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchanged for an honest review. "Adrift" is due to be released on September 4, 2018.