SMALL BOAT TO FREEDOM: A Journey of Conscience to a New Life in America

John Vigor, Author . Lyons $21.95 (260p) ISBN 978-1-59228-226-5

Talk about dramatic exits. British writer Vigor and his family didn't leave South Africa for America just by buying plane tickets, but by boarding a 31-foot sloop and sailing across the Atlantic. This is the account of that improbable journey, and it's a compelling read, if rather belated. It was 1987, the old regime was crumbling, violence was rampant, and Vigor figured his family had lived through enough. It's that background of a dysfunctional nation, and the people trapped within it, that gives the book its unique texture. Separate currents—racial politics, personal reminiscences and mano-a-mano combat with the sea—come together to feed Vigor's narrative. As a longtime newspaper columnist, the author possesses an easy feel for language that hasn't deserted him. But the timing is somewhat odd, a fresh tale of a trip made 17 years ago. In the epilogue, Vigor attributes this to 9/11 and its aftermath; he had fled a regime which took away so many people's rights, and now he sees those same rights threatened again in his new country. An admirable statement perhaps, but it feels tacked on, after the rolling consistency of previous chapters. Still, the work's simple honesty is beguiling. Vigor seems to have absorbed the rhythms of the sea in his pacing: mostly gentle, occasionally bracing and leaving readers exhilarated for the experience. Agent, Julie Fallowfield. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 260 pages - 978-1-57409-303-2
Paperback - 260 pages - 978-1-59228-827-4
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