Refuge in the Black Deck: The Story of Ordinary Seaman Nicola Peffers

Nicola Peffers. Caitlin (Midpoint, U.S. dist.; PGC, Canadian dist.), $24.95 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-987915-43-3
This memoir beautifully portrays the conflicted soul of a young woman set on a Canadian navy career, crushed by the daily grind of sexual harassment and ostracism within a warship’s cramped confines. It is also a disturbing account of the violence that defines military life for many female recruits. In short journal-style entries, marine electrician Peffers, a born storyteller with a sailor’s fondness for salty language, expertly chronicles her journey from eager newcomer to deeply wounded, trauma-battered soul. She pulls no punches, combining humor, horror, and searing honesty to describe daily life during a high-profile anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia. Even landlubbers will understand the attraction to life on the open seas while reading Peffers’s descriptions of the limitless ocean under a brilliant night sky and the understanding she develops for the boat’s internal maze of machinery. Her deployment is a love-hate relationship, and tension relentlessly builds as Peffers feels hunted and trapped by increasing levels of arbitrary punishment when questions about her on-the-job training are treated as insubordination. Peffers’s work is a hopeful and timely clarion call that demands dignity and respect for all her sisters in arms. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/17/2017
Release date: 03/01/2017
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