The Great Wide Sea by M. H. Herlong is 42 chapters and 283 pages of an ocean tale that will deplete the wind from your sails, as the reader holds his breath like being on the edge of a seat at the movie theater. Published by Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Group, the novel teaches life lessons about love, heartache, and pain, as well as science lessons about the ocean and stars.
The New Orleans authors weaves a tale of a family torn apart by an accident that leaves a father and three sons on their own. Trying to escape the pain of loss, the father uproots them by selling the family home and purchases a boat, but no matter how far they explore, the pain and heartache sails and docks with them.
Ben, the oldest brother is the narrator. Dylan, the middle one is wise about the stars, and his knowledge assists them in ocean navigation. Gerry, the youngest rides out the storms of the ocean and life still clinging to his blankie. Ben and his brothers love sailing on the smooth lake close to home, but an ocean is no smooth sail. When Dad disappears somewhere between the Bahamas and Bermuda, they are left to fend for themselves, not knowing what happened to their father. Ben thinks he committed suicide, but Dylan believes his dad fell from the boat by accident. Which brother is correct?
A treacherous storm forces both Ben and Dylan to take turns manning the tiller, but the storms of life they face force them both to become men while they're still mere boys. This tale of survival portrays relationships and family connections during crisis and is an equal match for other survival stories like Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain. If you like survival tales, this novel is a must read. Set in Florida, it's a Sunshine State book you'll long remember after the last page. It might make you want to stare at a star-studded night sky and quietly reflect on your own, when you picture Ben leaving young Gerry on an isolated island with Dylan dying.