Why? Because I’ve started and abandoned about a dozen books in the last few weeks, and this is the first story that’s kept my distracted mind from drifting. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a simple structure and premise, THE LIFEBOAT, but Rogan throws enough wrenches in the mix to keep it from being ordinary. And then there’s the underlying theme throughout: What is memory?
“Aristotle distinguished between ‘memory,’ which he said even slow people are good at, and ‘recollection,’ at which clever people excel. I don’t remember what he said next, but I understood him to mean that there could be no memory of the present, which involves only the perception of our senses, and that memory is the recoverable impression of a past event. Recollecting, however, is the recovery itself — the investigation or mnemonic process that leads one to a memory that is not instantly retrievable.” (p. 53)
The story of what happens in the lifeboat is told from one woman’s perspective, and she tells it under duress. Or, at least, under stress, both mental and physical. Therefore, how accurate is her version of events? How accurate can it be? How accurate, in the end, does she want or need it to be?
I recommend THE LIFEBOAT for a number of reasons. For readers, it’s a story you can’t put down — you have to know what’s going to happen next! For the novelist, it’s a lesson in plot development and characterization — 40 people are in that boat. And for the memoirist, how do we decide what needs telling, who benefits, and how might our most trusted memories deceive us?
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