Sometimes, when I am in the library, I'll pick a book at random off the shelf. Such was the case with The Voyage. I can't say what first attracted my eyepossibly the title or sepia-tinted photograph on the front. All I know is that I judged this book by its cover, and I am glad I did.
On the morning of June 11, 1901, Cyrus Braithwaite orders his sons to sail away from their house in Maine. He offers no reason or destination. He just says, "It's a whole new century, boys" and states that they can't return until September.
Stunned and confused, Nathaniel (16), Eliot (15) and Drew (13), cast off for destinations unknown. They are left wanting many answers. The actions of their father are a mystery. The secrets of their family are a mystery. Even their own immediate futures are a mystery they must figure out on the trip.
The Voyage is told through flashbacks provided by Sybil, a present day relative of the Braithwaites. Like the young boys who proceeded her, Sybil is attempting to solve her family's secrets. She tells the boys' story through the written Braithwaite history, including the log book, diaries, paper clippings and photos.
We follow the boys' trip all the way to Key West, Florida. There, they run into a hurricane that takes their boat and belongings. They escape with their lives only to find that they are stranded in Cuba. They telegraph their father asking for help and passage home. His reply is a cryptic single sentence that basically translates to "no". Cyrus' message leaves his sons even more confused by his actions and the reasons behind them.
Why did Cyrus cast his sons off into the open sea? What secrets are held by the family? Will the boys have a safe return from Cuba? All answers can be found in The Voyage.
Toward the end of the book, I was unhappy with The Voyage. There was a great build-up of suspense and there was no possible way all the questions could be answered with only 15 pages left to read.
I was wrong.
Like an impatient child, I was anxious for the final destination. I kept asking, "Are we there, yet?" when I should have been focusing on the journey. Like any good storyteller, Philip Caputo paced The Voyage well. He answered all the questions, but none before its time. I should have had faith in Mr. Caputo. I will next time.
I don't mean to sound like a high school English teacher, but I feel there are actually three separate voyages in this novel. The actual physical voyage the boys endure, their developmental voyage they take along the way, and Sybil's present-day voyage as she pours through her Braithwaite family history. I am happy to say that these voyages intertwine nicely. This reader had no feeling of the "choppy story syndrome" from which many novels suffer.
The Voyage is a very good book. I don't recommend it for vacation reading, as it does require some thought and effort. It would make a great gift for the avid fiction reader, person who likes stories about the sea and you.