Mitch Albom
The Stranger in the Lifeboat
Sphere, UK, 2021
ISBN-13: 978-0751584530 

It's the sort of scenario journalist and author Mitch Albom likes to posit in his novels - what if a disparate group of people were stranded in a lifeboat after their yacht sinks and then one of them, a stranger who they have dragged out of the sea, makes the most outrageous claim of being "the Lord"?

The Stranger in the Lifeboat

 

"Thought-provoking, intriguing and not afraid to confront difficult questions, The Stranger in the Lifeboat makes for a rewarding experience."

That's the starting premise for the author of Tuesdays with Morrie's latest outing. In the vein of his previous novels The First Phone Call from Heaven and The Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Stranger in the Lifeboat is an exploration of faith and how it interacts with our lives. 

The story starts with the sinking of a luxury mega-yacht, the Galaxy, owned by a billionaire Jason Lambert. He's gathered several dozen of the world's richest and most influential people aboard the yacht for a week-long gathering on the seas off the coast of Cape Verde in the north Atlantic for an event described as something like the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switerzland, only - in Lambert's words - "more fun".

Things go badly wrong, however when the yacht mysteriously sinks in the Atlantic with all aboard presumably lost. That is until a drifter finds a lifeboat washed up on the Caribbean island of Montserrat a year later and reports it to local police, which in turn leads Inspector Jarty LeFleur, who is himself struggling to come to terms with the loss of his child, to launch an investigation into what happened to those on board.

The story is partly narrated by one of those on the lifeboat, Benji, a lowly deckhand from the yacht, who records his thoughts in a notebook he found and, along with the story of Inspector LeFleur's inquiry, is interspersed with news reports of the sinking of the ship and the obituaries of those who were with him in the lifeboat.

It's a quick but profound read - regular readers of Albom's novels will know what to expect - and, as with his previous novels, it keeps the suspense strong right up until the closing pages as all is revealed. As, as with his previous novels, Albom approaches matters of faith without being overly proscriptive, leaving the reader to fill in the gaps for themselves.

Thought-provoking, intriguing and not afraid to confront difficult questions, The Stranger in the Lifeboat makes for a rewarding experience.

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