D'Aguiar takes the creative license to create a story about a woman Mintah on the Middle Passage of the slave trade. When disease starts affecting those on board the slave ship Zong, the captain orders all the sick to be thrown into the sea. The narrative then closely follows Mintah as she survives being thrown overboard, climbs back on to the ship, lives secretly in the supply room with the help of Simon, the young cook's aid, and writes her experiences in a journal. D'Aguiar's language throughout the novel is simplistic yet so effective in describing the extraordinary events that surround Mintah, our heroine, that it is impossible to not be engaged with the storyline.
The only time that I felt that the narrative was jarred was in Part 2. This is the only part when D'Aguiar moves away from Mintah's perspective. Perhaps other reader consider this section to be necessary to the progression of the plot. I just wished the transition from the ship Zong to the court room.
An image manipulated in the novel is the sea. It comes to represent a conqueror, a friend, or an enemy. Its implications as a witness to and an embracer of the jettisoning of the Africans is thought-provoking and incredibly compelling.
Read this book. It will make you cry over something, whether it be the subject matter, Mintah's relationship with Simon, or just the lovely diction and imagery conjured by D'Aguiar.