Thursday, February 18, 2021

Book Review: The Family Ship

By Sara Steven

Chesapeake Bay, 1980. Eighteen-year-old Verity Vergennes is the captain of the USS Nepenthe, and her seven younger siblings are her crew. The ship—an oyster boat transformed into a make-believe destroyer—is the heart of the Vergennes family, a place both to play and to learn responsibility. But Verity’s had it with being tied to the ship and secretly applies to a distant college. If only her parents could bear to let her go.

Maeve and Arthur Vergennes already suffered one loss when, five years earlier, their eldest son, Jude, stormed out and never returned. Now Maeve is pregnant again and something’s amiss. Verity yearns to follow her dreams, but how can she jump ship now? The problem, and perhaps the answer, lies with Jude.

When disaster strikes and the family unravels, Verity must rally her sibling crew to keep the Nepenthe and all it symbolizes afloat. Sailing away from home, she discovers, is never easy—not if you ever hope to find your way back. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

This was a truly unique experience. From the get go, the reader is brought into a world that has been created by the Vergennes children, cleverly written in a way as to showcase that even in a world of make-believe, there are real-life truths that lie buried within the ship and its inhabitants. Told from various children’s perspectives, many of which who begin their chapters as though writing notes into a captain’s log, the story progresses from Verity and her need to reach out and apply herself by trying to enroll at a college that would not be acceptable for her parents, to discovering what really happened with Jude, and why he left the family home. Moments of chaos and frustration are also seen from the younger Vergennes, and I felt as though Yoerg did a great job in making sure that each voice matched the age and personality of the child who is reflecting. 

The large family dynamic felt realistic, too. The need for help from the older siblings lends into Arthur’s fear in even thinking of the possibility of Verity going away to college, especially when Maeve is faced with health concerns. I could feel for both sides, considering the age Verity is (eighteen), and the fact that she is old enough to make her own decisions. Yet she feels bound to her family, especially with Jude gone, and the guilt in wanting to leave adds to the layer of guilt her father places on her. Not to mention long-ago events in her past that only complicate matters.

So much of The Family Ship showed all the little nuances and layers that go into not only making a family work and function, but how quickly and easily various obstacles can lead to dysfunction. It showed what grief can do, how it can extend out like ripples and affect each character in different ways, all fitting for who each person is and what they already experienced and have been through. But it also showed how family can be there for one another, when it’s least expected and in the most serious of situations, at times, life and death.

I really enjoyed the Vergennes family, and The Family Ship. The experience was well worth the five stars I’ve given it.

Thanks to Tall Poppy Writers for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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