“A first-rate, quietly enthralling account that belongs on the shelf with Paul Theroux’s ”Happy Isles of Oceania,” Jonathan Raban’s sailings and, for that matter, with the work of the landlubber Bruce Chatwin.”
–The New York Times Book Review, Christopher Buckley
A high-seas adventure story that combines the wry wit and deep reflection of A Walk in the Woods with the action and suspense of A Perfect Storm.
A stint in the army and a broken heart lead Kevin Patterson to the dock of a sailboat brokerage on Vancouver Island, where he stands contemplating the romance of the sea and his heartfelt desire to get away. By the end of the day, he finds himself the neophyte owner of a sailboat called the Sea Mouse. He also has a plan: to sail to Tahiti and back, and burn away his failings in hard miles at sea.
First he recruits a traveling companion, another brokenhearted guy who at least knows how to sail. They set out like the Two Stooges-Seasick and Slapstick. Days without wind are days to kick back on the deck with a beer and a man-versus-nature adventure book that valorizes their journey into an essential quest for manhood. But eventually the voyage begins to take on a sharper edge. On a relentless beat across the South Pacific, they run across one solitary male sailor after another on the lam, not heroes but refugees. Both the literature and the reality of masculine adventure start to pall, and Patterson begins to long for home.
But to get there, he faces the toughest of trials, single-handedly sailing the Sea Mouse across the North Pacific and through a four-day gale, conscious that no one on earth knows where he is or that he might die. The illusion that men are best tested by loneliness and adversity cracks in the force of the wind and the terrifying beat of the water, and The Water In Between becomes a hymn, not to running away but to heading home.
“[Patterson] deftly and modestly chronicles the sea wrack he encounters, how he learned enough to make the final leg of the voyage from Hawaii on his own and how he recovered from a broken heart. That would be accomplishment enough for such a tale, but Patterson attempts to reinvent the genre of travel literature as practiced by Bruce Chatwin and Paul Theroux. With charming self-knowledge, he sees such writing as missing the ultimate experience of travel: homesickness.”
“I devoured Kevin Patterson’s The Water In Between. He writes with such wisdom and clearheadedness, it made even me yearn for the open seas. It’s an extraordinary piece of writing.”
“The Water In Between is a terrific literary travel story.”
–The Globe and Mail
“The Water In Between is well deserving of a place alongside Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines, Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard, and Paul Theroux’s The Happy Isles of Oceania, other much loved voyages of loss, escape, and discovery.”
–Quill and Quire
Random House Canada, 2001
Nan A. Talese, US, 2001