The Lifeboat

So I’ve been back in Japan for almost a week now just getting back into the swing of things and have been quite busy.

I love going home to America because there are certain things you really begin to miss living in a foreign country. Walking into a bookstore with English books is one of them for me, and I can easily spend an hour or so perusing the aisles in Barnes & Noble. I recently purchased The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, which has so far been captivating.

The story is set in 1914, and the main character is crossing the Atlantic from England to the United States with her husband on a luxury liner. The ship is destroyed with a sudden, mysterious explosion and the main character is thrust into a lifeboat by her husband with almost 40 others. Although they believe an SOS message to have been sent and rescue imminent, the days begin to add up and the riders in the lifeboat begin to die from exhaustion, suffer psychosis, illness, dehydration, and the beginnings of starvation. All the while reading there is a terrifying undertone to it all: we are all animals underneath it all, and in times of absolute extremity, the decorum and the masks come down and we see ourselves for how brutish we all truly are (just as in Hobbes’ “State of Nature”). When survival is threatened, what we consider in proper society as “murder” becomes something else entirely–“survival of the fittest.” Perhaps in us all there lies the capability to commit certain acts normally deemed as atrocious. Also the concept of discerning meaning in chaos and the idea that there in the middle of the dark, unrelenting sea, undiscovered by any passing vessel, the little boat is pathetic and meaningless and completely at the mercy of nature. There may be no greater meaning, man may try too hard to believe that his existence has meaning when in all actuality it is completely void of any meaning with regard to the universe.

It is a beautiful and haunting metaphor for life, the “what-ifs” of the human condition. I have yet to finish the book, but so far it really is phenomenal and I recommend it to anyone looking for an unconventional thriller.

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