cover image Black Wave: A Family’s Adventure at Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them

Black Wave: A Family’s Adventure at Sea and the Disaster That Saved Them

John Silverwood, Jean Silverwood, with Malcolm McConnell. . Random, $25 (226pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-6655-1

In 2003, after two years at sea, the 55-foot catamaran sailed by the Silverwoods, a suburban California family that chucked it all to sail around the world, hit a reef off the South Pacific island of Scilly (now known as Manuae), putting the life of Jean and John and their four children (ages five to 16) in peril. The first part of the book is written from Jean’s perspective as she opens with the wreck and then moves smoothly between the family’s fight for survival and the story of their journey. By juxtaposing the two tales, Jean illustrates how the children’s maturity and cohesiveness were not only a byproduct of the trip but also the keys to all the Silverwoods surviving their ordeal, especially John, who was critically injured by the falling mast. Jean wears her heart on her sleeve, and her writing about her marital problems or John’s alcoholic relapses is honest. John’s narrative is half as long as Jean’s, underscoring his straight-to-the point personality and writing style. The saga from John’s perspective lacks emotion, but his ability to interweave the story of the Julia Anne (a sailing ship that hit the same reef in 1855) gives an eye-opening account of how much and how little sea travel has changed in 150 years and accentuates the heroism of this family that overcame an extraordinary ordeal. (July)