25 March 2013

Review: Lifesaving Lessons by Linda Greenlaw

You may remember Linda Greenlaw as being the only female swordfish captain in America and her brush with fame after the publication of Sebastian Junger's Perfect Storm. She has also appeared on television and has written several books, including memoirs and mysteries.

Although her latest memoir, Lifesaving Lessons: Notes from an Accidental Mother, includes stories about commercial fishing and lobster trapping, it's really about how Greenlaw took a fifteen-year-old girl, Mariah, under her wing and into her life, changing them both forever.

This is a difficult book to review because the circumstances in which Greenlaw became the legal guardian of Mariah are themselves difficult. In a nutshell, Greenlaw offered temporary shelter to Mariah when the teen's uncle fell off the wagon and needed some time to sober up. As Greenlaw and the entire small island community of Isle du Haut learned the truth of Mariah's home life, it was clear that the girl had been the victim of nearly lifelong abuse.

The result was three years of legal battles and domestic squabbles. With the support of the citizens of Isle du Haut, lawyers, counselors, and family services, the uncle was finally put in jail, and Greenlaw was able to give Mariah a stable, safe home. Finding tranquility and adjusting to each other as mother and daughter, however, proved to be much more difficult than either had anticipated.

In Lifesaving Lessons, Greenlaw is quite open about her uncertainties of becoming a mother to the often-difficult teen. In addition, with the blessings of her daughter, she reveals the details of Mariah's childhood and how the girl ended up running from her uncle in the middle of the night, seeking refuge with the few adults she thought she could trust.

You may feel you want to shy away from a true story of abuse and mistreatment, but I hope you don't. Greenlaw tells her story well, with a full mix of emotions, from humor and love to frustration, insecurity, and anger. She writes in a clear and honest style that is at once personal and universal. It is the hope of Greenlaw and Mariah that the book "will inspire or give strength to some other young victim to break out of the cycle of abuse" (p. 258).

I hope it will also inspire others to become accidental parents themselves. We cannot allow young victims to hide under the shroud of shame. These children have done nothing wrong and need strong, brave adults to help them find a way to live happy, fulfilled lives supported by a found family that can provide safety and love.

My review of the unabridged audiobook edition of Lifesaving Lessons (Brilliance Audio, 6 hr, 19 min), read by Linda Greenlaw, will be published by AudioFile magazine.

Buy Lifesaving Lessons at an Indie or at bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Penguin USA / Viking, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780670025176
Rating: B

Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


Sandy Nawrot 3/25/13, 6:52 AM  

I don't think the book's topic would scare me off at all. I do have to shake my head at the idea of taking in a teenager period. Not even a troubled one! They are all so damned difficult, and if you didn't have that precious memory of them when they were little and sweet, how on earth could you cope? This woman is a saint.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 3/25/13, 6:58 AM  

I have the eBook of this one and am more excited about reading it now after checking out your review. Sounds like one I'd like.

rhapsodyinbooks 3/25/13, 8:48 AM  

We got a Linda Greenlaw book after getting all excited over Perfect Storm and then never read it. You know how it is - one gets so easily distracted by the next big thing, and then the previous big thing gets sort of lost...

Alice Teh 3/25/13, 8:59 AM  

These are the stories that I love to read and I'm really in awe of parent(s) (bio or not; accidental or intended) that took great pains in making it work for their children. If I see this in the bookstore, I'd pick it up. Thanks for the review!

Charlie (The Worm Hole) 3/25/13, 9:14 AM  

Thinking first simply taking on a teenager would be difficult as you're so different and a true individual by then, the hardships of the battles must have been incredible. I like that she's famous for one thing but has this other side of her life too, it must make a compelling read.

Beth Hoffman 3/25/13, 9:15 AM  

Tough subject aside, I have the feeling that I'd enjoy this book. I'm a sucker for championing those who have been harmed and the people who help them.

Daryl 3/25/13, 10:13 AM  

sounds like a good read and hopefully will help and inspire others

Kelly TheWellReadRedhead 3/25/13, 10:38 AM  

Wow, sounds like a really powerful read. Thanks so much for sharing, I hadn't heard of this one yet.

Zibilee 3/25/13, 12:18 PM  

This does sound like something I would read, but I agree wit Sandy, it would be really hard to take in any teenager, because they all come with so much angst and problems. I am finding this out the hard way, like the author did!

bermudaonion 3/25/13, 4:23 PM  

I aspire to be someone like Greenlaw. This is exactly the kind of memoir I love!

Julie P. 3/26/13, 7:18 PM  

Parts of this story are probably very hard to read but I think it's important for us not to hide from them!

thecuecard 3/27/13, 6:14 PM  

It's coincidental you have just finished a Linda Greenlaw book as I am in the middle of her book "Seaworthy" now from 2010. It, too, is quite good. I like her writing and will likely read more of her books .... I didn't know about the latest memoir you mention. thanks

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