I picked The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan up in the clearance section of Barnes & Noble (who can resist that?!), instantly drawn to the book jacket promising an exciting tale of shipwreck survivors lost at sea in a single lifeboat.
The dynamic on the lifeboat turns into somewhat of a natural selection situation, in which several characters rise to the top and others fall short. In the end, the few survivors are on trial for murder. The entire story proved to be gripping, well-plotted, and immensely thought-provoking.
For fear of spoiling too much of the book, I will keep my opinion short and sweet. The tale is told backwards, protagonist Grace Winter being the voice we must trust — or not trust. This was my favorite part about the book; Rogan does not spell it all out for you. There are a lot of shifting parts that it can be hard to keep up with (I read certain scenes over and over again, trying to see the other sides of the story). There are moments when I believed Grace’s version of things entirely; other times I felt she wasn’t telling the whole truth. I love this. I think it’s a sign of a good character when you don’t know all their secrets.
I will admit, I was always on her side, even if I didn’t believe every word she said. I liked her, in all her flaws and unethical (?) choices. I put that question mark there because ethics is a major theme of this book, and you have to read it to decide whether or not you think Grace is actually unethical. Rogan does a good job of making you uncomfortable with how you think, and I reevaluated some of my own convictions because of the questions this book raised.
At it’s core, The Lifeboat is a story about survival. The backwards storytelling and raw imagery provides a new way of looking at life and death. It is primal and disturbing, more of an unsettling horror story than a fast-paced survival tale. It honestly didn’t grab me as quickly as some books have (at least 150 pages for me before I was stuck) but it ultimately did lure me in. Definitely pay attention to all of the little details and enjoy them because they are the strength of this novel.
Also, don’t read this if you are looking for something quick and easy. This book takes a lot of concentration to absorb and it will suck you in, but you will leave with a lot of questions. I think that is good storytelling. Although not a book I will be rereading anytime soon, The Lifeboat was a good addition to my bookshelf.
Have you read this book? What did you think?
P.S. – Here it is on Amazon! If you read it let me know in the comments 🙂