cover image The Unsinkable Greta James

The Unsinkable Greta James

Jennifer E. Smith. Ballantine, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-35827-6

Smith delivers a story of love and grief with her satisfactory adult debut (after the YA novel Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between). Greta James, a beleaguered rock star in her 30s grieving the sudden loss of her mother, Helen, sets off on an eight-day Alaskan cruise with her father, Conrad. The trip, which Helen had organized prior to her death, was supposed to be a wedding anniversary celebration. Greta, meanwhile, hasn’t performed since an onstage meltdown went viral, and Greta and Conrad have an uneasy rapport because Conrad never supported Greta’s career. Early on in the cruise, Greta meets Ben Wilder, an author and Columbia professor there to give lectures for the guests. The unlikely pair form an instant bond, and this romance, along with Greta’s potential reconciliation with her father, propel a plot buoyed by majestic descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness. Hints of a disastrous development on the voyage never come to fruition, though Smith does a great job with her characters, particularly Greta, eliciting her charms and flaws in equal measure. There’s not a whole lot to write home about with this, but it gets the job done. (Mar.)