Review: The Cure for Anything is Salt Water

The Cure for Anything is Salt Water
The Cure for Anything is Salt Water
Mary South
Harper, 224 pages
June, 2008
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Description (from Publishers Weekly):
A mid-life crisis and a latent sense of adventure caused book editor South to give up her life in publishing and take up residence on the Bossanova, a steel-hull trawler she bought before knowing how to captain it. The subtitle is largely hyperbolic-South’s time “at sea” was really a short, if perilous, sail from Florida to Sag Harbor, where the boat is now docked-but South makes an interesting memoir from her skillful observation of the sailing life: “Good seamanship isn’t the thoughtless instinct that salty dogs make it seem to be. It’s the good habit of always asking yourself the right questions in the right order and answering them thoughtfully.” Sometimes, she seems to have forgotten landlubbers might pick up her book; a sentences like, “One danger is that your bow will slow and your stern will get kicked out to the side, causing you to be beam-to,” is just one head-scratcher of many for the uninitiated. She can be clumsy when transitioning between sailing stories and other aspects of her life (“This sailing was happiness. For a time, happiness, too, had been Leslie.”), but her clear-eyed perspective and involving stories keep the narrative moving. This small but well-observed memoir is a worthwhile read for anyone stuck in the workaday rut.

I was reading a bunch of ocean-themed books, some fiction, some not, on my Kindle during November and December, and Mary South’s memoir The Cure for Anything is Salt Water popped up on a list of suggestions. I downloaded the sample chapter to my kindle, read it, started reading other stuff, and then finally downloaded the whole book as a Christmas gift to myself. (I almost gave myself an iphone 4 after I cracked the glass on my 3GS, but we ultimately decided I should wait til summer, and the iPhone 5, and books are better, anyway.)

I really enjoyed South’s storytelling – though sometimes the transitions from the “present” story of sailing her steel barge from Florida to Sag Harbor to the “flashback” story of how she got to that point in time were a little awkward, and sometimes she used more sailing jargon than I think most people understand. I mean, I read a LOT of sailing books, and I knew most of the terms she used, but there were several I had to look up. Also, there was far less sailing in the book than I’d hoped for – just the one trip.

Those quibbles aside, however, I really enjoyed the book. Ms. South is witty and engaging, and some of her comments about lesbian dating made me laugh. I kept following my husband around reading passages and laughing delightedly.

Also, I totally related to the desire to chuck it all, pack up the dogs, and live on a boat. Well, maybe not a boat, but if there’s a small coastal village in Scotland or Ireland with a good pub, great cafe, a decent bookstore, and high-speed internet access, I’m SO there.

But I digress.

Mary South’s book isn’t just a mid-life crisis memoir. It’s a really engaging peek at two worlds: that of being a single woman over thirty-five, and that of being the captain of your own ship.

Both were enjoyable.

Goes well with: Freshly caught blue fish and a glass of wine.