Black Wave – Book Review

It was just after dark in a lonely reach of the South Pacific. As we sped westward, the ocean floor was a mile below us – or it was supposed to be. Like when microphone feedback suddenly fills an auditorium until you must cover your ears, a deafening shrill exploded through the boat. It seemed to come from everywhere. Then a big jostle. horrible, gouging, scraping chalkboardlike sounds. The twin hulls under us were screaming. John looked at me the way someone in the next seat of an airplane might look if, at forty thousand feet, all the engines just quit. I had never seen him so instantly confused and horrified – then came the great shaking and crash as we bounced more violently between the iron-hard treetops of submerged coral, sharp as butcher knives. Seconds later we slammed full on into the coral reef. Our home, the Emerald Jane, came to a ripping halt, and the great waves of the Pacific exploded around us in a deafening, continuous roar. -From Black Wave, pages 5, 6-

John and Jean Silverwood lived with their four children in Southern California. They seemed to have it all – a beautiful home, comfortable income and lots of friends. But beneath the happy exterior, lay a family in a struggle with addiction and a search for larger meaning in life. They made a decision, which would change their lives, to set sail on the 55 foot catamaran Emerald Jane. For two years, the Silverwood family sailed the high seas, visiting remote islands, running from pirates and seeing some of the world’s most beautiful scenery and wildlife. Their adventure was full of challenges, but it forced them to grow and come together as a family. And then, near the end of the voyage on a velvety dark night, they collided with a coral reef. Black Wave is the story of their survival and how it changed them forever.

This true life adventure is narrated in two parts. In part one, Jean Silverwood describes the shipwreck that threatened their lives, and then looks back to recollect the weeks and months of their voyage. Her story is one of inner meditation – of her children and how they grew up in those two years, and of her marriage which was challenged by John’s alcoholism. She writes with a poetic style that is easy to read. She bares her soul and so the reader feels that they know her.

In part two, John Silverwood takes over the narrative. He reveals the aftermath of their voyage and parallels their story to one which happened in 1855 when a ship called Julia Ann struck the exact same coral reef and sank into the wild Pacific waters. Although the historic tale lends some perspective (and perhaps a link to our shared pasts), it changes the direction of the book to an historic rendering versus a personal family saga. I was much more captivated with Jean’s narration…perhaps because the real story here is less about the wreck and more about a family who discovered their strengths in the face of disaster.

This book is a quick read – and I enjoyed it. Although the two parts felt disconnected to me, this is a book which will entice adventurers and sailors. Filled with images of star studded skies over the vast ocean waters, Black Wave is also a book for romantics and dreamers.

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    • Christy on November 12, 2008 at 15:46

    Beautiful new header! 1 More Chapter did a great job!

    • Lexi on November 12, 2008 at 18:41

    This book sounds really good. I’ve heard about it before, but I can’t remember if it was on your blog or someone else’s. Especially these days, when money is tight, I totally dream of running away on a boat and leaving everything behind…

  1. I love these adventure stories…I was captivated by the passage you shared. Wonderful review.

    I also love the new header.

    • Teddy on November 13, 2008 at 21:52

    This books sounds like I would enjoy. I like an adventure every now and then. You just added another book to my TBR.

    • Wendy on November 14, 2008 at 10:19

    Thanks, Christy – I agree!

    Lexi: You might not want to run away on a boat once you read about their wreck! But, it is a good story, despite some uneven writing.

    Serena: I love a good adventure story as well…thanks for the compliments on the new look 🙂

    Teddy: I was torn about my rating on this one – it is a good story, but the writing is a little uneven…even still, I found myself breezing through it and enjoying it.

  2. Hope you don’t mind, Wendy, but I have an award for you. Just go to

    Jan (in Edmonds)

    • Lori Barnes on November 14, 2008 at 20:05

    This sounds like another good one i’ll need to write down.

  3. This looks like an interesting read. I wasn’t too sure when you first described the story, but reading what you wrote about Joan’s narrative in particular, I think this is one to add to that ever-growing TBR!

    • Wendy on November 16, 2008 at 14:15

    Jan: I will try to get to that meme as soon as I’m feeling a bit better 🙂 Thanks for the tag!

    Lori and Ms. Bookish: Hope you’ll enjoy it!

    • Mike Andrews on January 15, 2009 at 08:40

    I knew John from work – never knew he sailed. I’ve sailed many seas and would like to communicate with John via email. John was a new home builder and at the time the company I worked for provided him with job site helpers. Last time I saw John was at Disneyland 2003. He never mentioned that he was about to undertake such an adventure. Anyone who chooses to take a Catamaran versus a monohull for around the world ventures must be an excellent sailer. It would fun to talk with him.

    • Wendy on January 15, 2009 at 08:46

    Mike: Thanks for stopping by – Perhaps John will see this comment and contact you – or you could contact the publisher and leave a message for him. I bet it was a surprise to see the book if you’d been out of touch with him for awhile!

    • Jan on January 15, 2009 at 18:00

    Thanks Wendy for including me in this review. Wow! When I think of sea voyages I remember Dove, Dead Calm, The Life of Pi. What an adventure for this family.

    • Wendy on January 18, 2009 at 17:24

    You’re welcome, Jan 🙂 It was quite an adventure, wasn’t it?

    • chuck lane on March 1, 2009 at 20:24

    Saw the TV 48 hour mystery on this book last night. This review was helpful. Sound like a worthwhile read. Thanks

    • Wendy on March 2, 2009 at 15:57

    Chuck: I had not realized there was a 48 hour mystery on this book! I usually catch most of those, but somehow missed this one.

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