HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea
Author and Illustrator: Steven Callahan
Publisher: Mariner Books, republished in 2002
ISBN-13: 978-0395382066 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0395382068 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0618257324 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0618257322 Paperback
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 16 and up
Rating: *** 3 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Callahan, Steven. Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea (published in 1986 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company; republished in 1987 by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY). On the night of Jan. 20, 1982, twenty nine year old Steven Callahan, a marine architect, sets sail alone in his small sloop Napoleon Solo from the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa in the single-handed Mini-Transat Race from Spain bound for Antigua in the Caribbean Sea. Six days out the boat sinks, and Callahan finds himself adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in a five and a half foot inflatable raft, which he dubs Rubber Ducky III, with only three pounds of food and eight pints of water. He had managed to grab a knife, his emergency duffel bag, a piece of mains’l, and a sleeping bag. This book recalls his seventy-six-day ordeal adrift in the Atlantic and recounts his problems surviving the hardships of weather, shark attacks, a leaking raft, pain, weakness, and, above all, the lack of food and water.
I won’t ask, does Callahan make it? Obviously, his ingenuity and knowledge of the sea enables him to survive and tell the story. But what does he have to do to survive? Where does he end up? How is he rescued? And why is the antepenultimate chapter entitled “Death”? To be honest, there were times when the narration had a little trouble holding my attention. If I were a sailor or perhaps a survivalist, it would have kept my interest more. At the same time, there is a lot of fascinating information about how Callahan learned how to devise a primitive method to collect fresh water, spear fish, fix his solar still, and even repair his holed raft. Also, it is a real human drama that delves deeply into man’s survival instincts, showing fortitude and perseverance.
The only warnings which I have are that Callahan makes a few references that are evolutionary in nature, occasionally writes about drinking alcoholic beverages, and uses a moderate amount of cursing (the “d” and “h” words, including the form “godd*****”), profanity (especially the term “my God” as an exclamation), and some near-vulgar terms. Yet, there are also discussions like the following. “I wonder about God. Do I believe in Him? Somehow I cannot accept a vision of a super humanoid, but I believe in the miraculous and spiritual way of things—existence, nature, the universe” (p. 54). And, “As I look out of the raft, I see God’s face in the smooth waves, His grace in the dorado’s swim, feel His breath against my cheek as it sweeps down from the sky. I see that all of creation is made in His image” (p. 109).