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Monday, April 15, 2013

The Stuff of Great Story: The Ocean. Sailing. Family.

Title: The Other Side of The Ice
Author: Sprague Theobald
Web Site:
Genre: Nonfiction: Family / Adventure
ISNB: 78-1-61608-623-7

Originally reviewed by The Alpha Wife

I am always looking for a good book to read and although my reading time is limited these days, it seems I am always able to make time for a new book (my family probably wishes I made time for things like cooking or cleaning!).
The last book I read was The Other Side of the Ice, by Sprague Theobald, and let me tell you – it was not what I expected, in the best way possible.
I don’t really know anything about sailing, and I can’t say it’s an interest of mine (aside from lounging around on a sail boat in the British Virgin Islands…that I am interested in) – and as this book was about a family’s attempt to cross The Northwest Passage, which is an incredibly dangerous piece of the ocean that is littered with icebergs and infamous for its horrendous weather, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to, ahem, get on board.

Honestly, I expected a book detailing the technical aspects of the crossing, and although I knew from the summary that it also told the story of a family reunited, I was still pretty sure I’d mostly be reading a book about boats and polar bears.

Turns out I was wrong on several levels.

This is a story about one man’s physical and emotional journey through some of the world’s most dangerous (and largely uncharted!) territory.  Sprague is a talented writer and draws the reader in from the first page – and almost immediately, it’s clear that this story is about more than the ocean.  Sprague decides he wants to fulfill a lifelong dream to sail through the Northwest Passage, but maybe even more importantly, he wants to repair the relationships he has with his three children (stepchildren Dominique and Chauncey and son Sefton), who are all competent sailors.  He hires the bunch – along with a captain (Dominique’s boyfriend) and a cameraman to record the journey for a future documentary, and sets off on the kind of adventure that you might see in the movies.  Only, it’s real.  And includes his children, who as adults are still healing from the wounds of divorce years after the divorce was finalized.

Sprague paints a vivid and honest picture of his relationship with his kids.  He doesn’t shirk from responsibility or blame the kids’ mother – he steps up and owns his mistakes and says, more than once, that he wishes he’d been around more.  As a parent, these stories pull at my heartstrings – there are some things that you just cannot undo, and Sprague realizes this,  making a point of living in the moment and fixing what he can and moving forward.  Much of the story almost reads as an apology to his children, yet remains hopeful about what the future may hold.  There is a lot of history and many back stories, and somehow these all seem to come together seamlessly.  The crew are a vibrant and multi-dimensional nunch, and I felt that Sprague managed to tell their stories without bias – these are real people, and I didn’t feel like the author was trying to make me like, or dislike, anyone.

I was cheering for everyone to reconnect as a family, to be sure…but I couldn’t get enough of the actual sailing trip, either!  I had *no* idea what went into something of this magnitude and it was fascinating to me to read about the technical details (which I thought would quickly bore me).  Sprague talks just enough about the boat’s engine/weather/onboard systems to educate the reader and set the stage for the story – it’s a fine line to walk, as too much boat stuff and I’d be yawning myself to sleep, but not enough and I might be confused (and I’m sure experienced sailors and adventurers relished the technical side of this book).
The book ended as I’d hoped (that’s not a spoiler!).  I was rooting for the whole crew and the hearty little Bagan (I kind of loved their boat by the end of this book, and felt like she was one of the main players in this story).

The only thing that disappointed me?  The editing was poor.  There were some typos, and some of these came early on in the book…which had me wondering if I wanted to keep reading.  But the story was so compelling and well-told, I kept reading (and was happy I did).  And for the record, I looked this book up on Amazon and noticed that the author addressed the typos and said they were being corrected (thank goodness – this story deserves to be typo-free).

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