Who could deny, in their heart of hearts, that they’ve sometimes yearned for a sailboat or at least a windjammer cruise. Jim Lynch gives much material to provide a vicarious experience for readers, and if you’re one of the few who hasn’t felt the urge, plenty of reasons to congratulate yourself on avoiding the trap.
The Johannssen family is three generations of boat builders and sailors who still make and race sailboats, though the family glory is somewhat faded. This is partly because the tyrannical middle Johannssen, known as Bobo Jr., has turned to cutting corners and, finally, frankensteining (illegally modifying boat for unfair advantage) the family Joho 39 for the culminating race. The main story revolves around the three children: Bernard, the outlaw, Joshua, steadfast and the one who maintains connections, and Ruby, a sailing savant who is famous for her unexplained success at sailing fast.
After being driven to sailing perfection, or as near as possible, as youths, Bernard flies the coop to catch and sell rare butterflies from South America on the black market, Ruby leaves to volunteer on a mercy medical ship in Africa, and Joshua finally escapes as well but, befitting his less revolutionary personality, only moves sixty miles south to Olympia, where he continues his trade of boat repair and as good neighbor to the other characters living in the marina. Yes, the Johannssen family flew apart, but gravity drew them together for the great race, the Swiftsure; a 120-mile race out of Victoria, British Columbia, to United States waters and back. An interesting tale of sailing, and surviving in extremis. Unfortunately, the solidarity doesn’t last and will not be repeated due to the death of one of the family.
This reviewer regards Jim Lynch as a ˜local boy’ makes good. I live 150 miles south, but on the vastness of the West Coast, it feels local. He’s a good storyteller with a knack for solid, interesting, and sympathetic characters in a setting that he’s intimate with; a good combination.
Before the Wind is the second novel of his that I have read, the first being The Highest Tide and this reviewer is anticipating reading a third. This book is a good read that contains much more in its pages than this review encompasses. You’re bound to find a lot to enjoy.
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