This is a rich and gripping tale of adventure, courage, and persisting effects of long-held secrets. "The Voyage" is a powerful novel about a family whose ways and deeds were once a template for a nation.
Adventures are slow to shape themselves at first, but once the Braithwaite boys enlist the help of blond, worldly wise Yale dropout Will Terhune, the pace quickens considerably. Nat, who serves as skipper, and is also the most naive and most ambitious of the brothers, nearly dies in a bar fight in lower Manhattan. Fourteen-year-old Drew, the seasick-prone family rationalist, discovers a penchant for cold-blooded violence. Caught in a blow off the Carolinas, the boys limp the damaged schooner into Beaufort, South Carolina, their mother's birthplace, where an ancient aunt invites them to dinner and hints darkly at family secrets. Then, about two-thirds of the way in, what has seemed a leisurely coming-of-age story explodes into an elemental drama as a hurricane swallows the boat and spits it out on the desolate coast of Cuba. This, as it turns out, is but the first in a series of terrible reversals.
The Voyage is a departure for Caputo, a former foreign correspondent who made his name with a Vietnam memoir (A Rumor of War), and he does a fine job of conjuring up an age "when both the awareness of death and the hope of salvation were writ on every face." True, his framing device of a present-day Braithwaite descendant delving into her family's secret history is a bit forced and yes, the characters could use more depth. No matter. At some point, The Voyage becomes irresistible. --David Laskin --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Besides that glaring flaw, the book also lacked fully fleshed out characters. The boys sail down the coast and meet up with a series of two-dimensional people whose only distinguishing characteristics are their various vernacular speech patterns. A more politically-correct type than myself might call some of them racist, but to me it was just dull and disappointing, especially since the premise of three brothers cast out to sea by their stern father is such a great starting point for an exciting novel. Too bad this one sank.