When news broke that a Mexican fisherman was found alive on a remote island 36 months and 7,000 miles from where he disappeared after a two-day fishing trip, there was rampant skepticism.
The headlines faded, but 438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea, by Jonathan Franklin, takes a closer look at the incident. The author of a book about the Chilean miners’ survival, Franklin began his research for this book as a skeptic. After dozens of hours of interviews with the hardscrabble fisherman, his colleagues, search-and-rescue officials, the islanders who found him and the medical team that saved his life, Franklin emerged with a very believable survival story. It begins when a gale pushing 10-foot seas ambushes Salvador Alvarenga and his mate aboard a small open boat 80 miles offshore. A desperate tale of endurance unfolds as journalist Franklin delivers a gripping account of survival, suicidal thoughts and beating tremendous odds. (Atria Books, $26)
Sailing In The Blood
A passion for sailing unites the Johannssen family in Before The Wind, a novel by Jim Lynch. Josh has spent his whole life among sailboats. His grandfather designed them, his father built and raced them, his sister had a gift for reading the wind on the way to the finish line, and his brilliant mother understood the physics of great sailing performance. Puget Sound was the family playground, but the siblings scattered decades ago. Now Josh makes a living repairing boats in a marina an hour south of Seattle and wonders what drove the Johannssens so far apart. A reunion to race aboard a family-built boat brings them back together. This chance to save the family business may also save the family, when it proves they have more than sailing in common, after all. (Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95)
Hunter And Hunted
Author Michael Tougias is an old hand at spinning true stories into gripping adventures. So Close to Home: A True Story of an American Family’s Fight for Survival During World War II, which he co-authored with Alison O’Leary, paints a portrait of a German U-boat captain as he stalks a freighter 50 miles off New Orleans and the 62 souls aboard the hunted vessel. The book incorporates original, unpublished material from Commander Erich Wurdemann’s war diary, and an account of the Downs family and their 11- and 8-year old children, who are asleep as two torpedoes speed their way. The explosion and the chaos that follows set the scene for a frantic effort by the separated family members to survive sharks, hypothermia, drowning and dehydration. Meticulously researched through direct interviews, eyewitness accounts and official documents, it’s a riveting true tale. (Pegasus Books, $27.95)
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue.