The Last Sailor: A Novel

Written by Sarah Anne Johnson
Review by Linda Harris Sittig

Johnson returns once again to the setting of a Cape Cod village and a family whose identity is shaped by the tides. The story relates the familiar saga of family drama perpetuated by a stern New England father.

It is 1898, and the Boyd brothers could not be more different. Nathaniel seeks a life of solitude out on the marshes while his older brother Finn pushes himself relentlessly to succeed in his fishing business. A previous tragic accident that claimed the life of their younger brother, Jacob, has altered the lives of everyone in the family. While on a fishing trip, Nathaniel and Finn meet a young runaway woman who convinces them to take her back to their hometown. She seems to be harboring a secret, but neither brother confronts her about her past. At least, not at the beginning of the novel. The girl, Rachel, changes their lives. Finn becomes enamored of her, while Rachel seeks out Nathaniel. And Nathaniel wants only to escape the pain of having lost his childhood sweetheart, Meredith, to another man.

As the story unfolds, Finn’s anger against his father becomes directed at everyone else. The author uses the mechanisms of two brothers at odds with one another and a self-absorbed father to further the plot toward disastrous consequences.

The entire plot is logical, with enough twists to keep the reader’s interest. Although at times the father seems overly stereotypical, he is a compelling character and provides the constant current of conflict that runs throughout the story. Johnson does an admirable job with painting a vivid picture of a Cape Cod fishing village, but at times I did not feel like the setting was 1898. Recommended.