Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Non-fiction Review: My Old Man and the Sea


My Old Man and the Sea
Author: David Hays and Daniel Hays
Publisher: Algonquin Books, 1995, 231 pages.
Source: Daly City Public Library Associates booksale

Publisher's Summary:
A story of adventure on a small boat, for fathers, for sons, and for those who love them. On this voyage the father relinquishes control, the son becomes the captain, and before long they are utterly alone, with only the huge waves of Cape Horn, a compass, a sextant, a pet cat, and the tiny boat they've built together. "The account of the passage, related in alternating sections by father and son, will be read with delight 100 years from now."--William F. Buckley, The New York Times Book Review, front page; "A must read for sailors of the sea and of the heart."--Eco Traveler. 


My Review:  I really enjoyed this book, and in some ways it's hard to know exactly why. I'm not a sailor, and will never be one (can you say motion sickness?), and many of the details about sailing went right over my head. I still don't know if sailing around the Horn in a 20' sailboat is an amazing feat or an act of idiocy, or nothing much or something in between, but there's no denying that a father and son who can share that 20' boat for about 6 months with only a few battles are something special.

The book is written in alternating sections by David (father) and Daniel (son; in his mid-20s). David writes in more the reflective creative-non-fiction style, while Daniel confines his reflections in a journal format. Both speak openly and honestly about everything from their own feelings about each other to their feelings about themselves. David spends a bit of time writing about his own father and their boats, perhaps in an attempt to explain how and why he and David end up at sea together. In any case, it helps develop the theme of fathers and sons, and little he writes seems extraneous.

Daniel's style is a little more spare, but he, too, is completely honest about his feelings and his failings. In the end, what we have is half adventure story, and half a paeon to the love of a father and son--and the infinite complexities in their relationship. In a way, this was a good companion book to Cokie Roberts' We Are Our Mothers' Daughters, which I read at the same time. Which makes me think that I'd really like to read about a mother-daughter pair doing a similar adventure.

My Recommendation:
If the premise sounds interesting to you, go for it. The book is well-written and and easy read.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased My Old Man and the Sea, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  


  1. "Which makes me think that I'd really like to read about a mother-daughter pair doing a similar adventure." Or perhaps a mother-sons trio on hiking the Rockies?

    1. :D That would work too!

      Though I would be very interested in the mother-daughter dynamic, and how it would differ from the father-son version. Though I don't think this pair was typical.


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