cover image The Narrowboat Summer

The Narrowboat Summer

Anne Youngson. Flatiron, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-76461-4

Youngson (Meet Me at the Museum) tosses together two middle-aged women on the precipice of change in this pleasing buddy tale. Ailing but hardened Anastasia, who lives on an English canal narrowboat, meets Sally Allsop and Eve Warburton when the two strangers break onto her boat after thinking Anastasia’s barking dog is in trouble. Quickly feeling trust for the women, Anastasia asks them to take up the duties of her vessel while she gets medical treatment for a mysterious illness. With just a few navigating tips and some gruff advice, recently fired Eve and recently separated Sally travel off down the canals of England, eagerly leaving their former lives behind. Youngson moves the wispy plot—which largely concerns the novice crew’s mishaps and encounters with colorful locals—along at a slow pace, frequently drawing parallels to nautical life: “How was it that, when they could plan all this and carry it out, she seemed incapable of following the routes they had chosen on a perfectly reproduced, accurate, annotated, scaled map.”Oddball characters, such as Billy the singing historian and Arthur the vagabond accountant, buoy the pleasant narrative. Youngson’s meditative story satisfies with its take on the joys of new friendship and the happiness that can be found in the mundane. (Jan.)