In October 1991, a rare meteorological event occurred in which more than one major storm converged simultaneously on the area off the coast of Nova Scotia, resulting in a storm the likes of which those born to the sea had never seen the likes of, a “perfect storm”. Author Sebastian Junger focuses his tale on the crew of the swordfish boat Andrea Gail, which disappeared in the storm, telling through them the story of the lives of Gloucester, Massachusetts fishermen past and present, and interweaving lessons in meteorology, maritime history, and rescue operations.
I had thought that the book was going to be only about the crew of the Andrea Gail, so I was a little surprised when I realized that a good deal of the book is comprised of the stories of other people caught up in the maelstrom of the storm and about meteorology. Personally, I found the story of the ditching and rescue of the para rescue jumpers who’s helicopter went down to be perhaps the most compelling of the whole book, so I was happy that the story went beyond that of just the Andrea Gail. There were a few places where I felt that explanations of weather phenomenon slowed the forward momentum of the narrative, but for the most part the information was compellingly written and added to the reader’s understanding of the gravity of the situation.
At a short 227 pages, this is a fast read, of which the last seventy-five pages really flies. Like most good narrative nonfiction, it is peopled with with characters you come to care about, grieve for, and Junger does an excellent job wrapping up everyone’s stories in the last few pages. The only reason that I did not give this book five stars was because I felt that some of the scientific passages became a little weighty and interrupted the pacing of the book. All in all, a great read.