Fiction as Self-Help – the stranger in the lifeboat

“It’s always been a mystery to me… how beauty and anguish can share the same moment.” – Mitch Albom (pg. 35)

The words “beauty” and “anguish” perfectly describe the stranger in the lifeboat (yes, all lower case) by Mitch Albom.

Not for the reasons one supposes.

Let me explain.

I like Albom. I like his writing and the books of his I’ve read. I wrote about Tuesdays with Morrie here. Loved it!


I found this offering…


But to begin at the beginning, I love the quote from page 35 and it was what led me to buy the book in the first place. I often thumb through a new book quickly and see if anything catches my eye before I buy. In this case it was that line I quoted above.

Well, that and the fact that it’s about a lifeboat on the ocean. Not that lifeboats are a fave thing… but the ocean and ships… bliss. In fact, I wrote a post about another work of fiction that takes place on a lifeboat! In it, I explained why I write about “Fiction as self-help”. That book was aptly named, “The Lifeboat“.

That the story takes place (and people are surviving on) a lifeboat intrigues me! It’s the limited space. Think Snakes on a Plane. LOL

I also love human nature, as you know!

I expected all these things combined to make for a dandy read.

Except… this time… ? … not so much.

And yet, that’s not exactly fair…

The writing is good. The story, interesting. Until…


The Lord is introduced.

What the heck is HE doing there?

Well, duh, Sher, people are in survival mode – you know, on a lifeboat – and maybe The Lord is kinda expected in such an experience?

But, see… the thing is…

Okay, listen…

(Now that I’ve invited all the senses — “see” and “listen” — Ha!)

The book is fine. The story is compelling. I was hooked from page one and read it in a day and a half, during breaks at work and this morning.

But the whole… Lord thing… felt out of place, even considering all that I said above.

Beauty and anguish.<<< It’s what I felt while reading. I almost put the book down several times.


The story has the bones of something wonderful.

Rich people. Hurt people. Egos. Backstories. The ocean. C’mon!

Then, out of the blue… The Lord shows up. You know, bobbing in the middle of the ocean.

Had anyone asked for Him? Were there prayers, cries to Him for help?

Not exactly.

And that might have been okay… because… you know… The Lord knows what you need even if/when you don’t realize it… or something like that.

But things, in my opinion, kinda went downhill (underwater?) from there.

One could say it jumped the shark.

Yeah, trying to be clever. Did it work? Underwater? Shark? No?

I think The Lord was supposed to be a pivotal character. He/She/They were not. I honestly did ask myself (more than once) how they tied into the story.

And the ending? I haven’t been this disappointed since reading John Grisham‘s “The Chamber” in the 1990s. That book was 900,000 pages long and as I read the last page I thought to myself, “that’s time I’ll never get back!” And I like John Grisham! But that book! Ugh.

Um. Yeah. I digress.

This little book should’ve been good. I liked how it was put together, written from the standpoint of one of the survivors, jumping to a newscast, then jumping to an investigator. It wasn’t hard to follow and as I say it had good bones.

At some point, though, I realized it wasn’t going anywhere that I wanted to go. And that’s sad. I can usually find something redeeming in *every* book I read!

As I like to say, your mileage may vary. I hope it does!


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