BY THE GRACE OF THE SEA: A Woman's Solo Odyssey Around the World

Pat Henry, Author . McGraw-Hill/International Marine $24.95 (388p) ISBN 978-0-07-135527-8

With a bankrupt business, pending lawsuits and an audit by the IRS, Henry had plenty of reasons to hit the deck. In 1989 she set sail aboard the 31-foot Southern Cross and traveled the world. Eight years later Henry returned to Acapulco, Mexico; at 56, she became the oldest American woman (not the first, as the book jacket erroneously reports) to complete a solo circumnavigation. Over the course of this memoirish travelogue, Henry emerges as an artist, creating original watercolors of the coastal villages she calls home, mounting exhibitions in galleries across the globe and earning enough money to support her sailing. She also develops a deeper understanding of herself. Indeed, Henry may well be construed as a shining example of midlife reinvention, an inspiration to woman wishing to put aside the past in pursuit of a dream. Unfortunately, Henry's narrative lacks the requisite arc and flow of a compelling story. Full of mundane details (including what she ate for breakfast, the contents of her pantry and her latest book selections), the writing feels slow and weighted. Endless laments about her failed business, unlucky love life and strained relationship with her daughter—fine fodder for a private diary—feel clichéd and tiresome when issued for public consumption. Occasionally, Henry peppers the text with anecdotes about the political history of each region, serving to right the sinking ship. Watercolors and b&w photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/29/2002
Release date: 08/01/2002
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