Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book Review: Rowing the Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean

Rowing the Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean Rowing the Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean by Roz Savage

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book probably deserves 3 1/2, maybe even 4 stars, but I'm giving it 3, because I just can't bring myself to say that it's 4 star worthy. To me a 4 star book is one that is immensely enjoyed, and 3 star is a very good, pleasurable read. This was a very good, pleasurable read.

The heart of the book is about a woman named Roz Savage who decides in mid-life that she is going to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. I first discovered Roz through's "Blogs of Note" program, during her second stage of her solo row across the Pacific Ocean. I was immediately fascinated by this - a woman, blogging from an ocean rowboat, rowing across the Pacific Ocean - that's not something you hear or read about very often! So having become an avid follower of Roz's daily posts and various trials on the open ocean, I was excited to learn that she had written a book about her experience rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.

I have to say that Roz is a good writer. She is very engaging and forthcoming about her experience and how she reached the point of setting off in the Atlantic Rowing Race, the first solo woman to do so, and her 103 days on the open ocean. And it was not a sunny or pleasant experience. Suffering from tendinitis in her shoulders, a boil on her bum, 4 broken oars, a broken camp stove, and various and other sundry things like rogue waves tipping the boat precariously on its side were just some of the obstacles that Roz had to overcome during her crossing. Her ingenuity, tenacity, and perseverance are definitely to be admired and inspiring.

And yet - I found the whole reason of her embarking upon this expedition to be kind of shallow. The reason that she states (or that I took away from the book) is that she wanted to prove that she could depend upon herself and herself only to find happiness in life. She constantly refers to a pivotal moment in her life in which she wrote two obituaries for herself - one which she pictured if she stuck in the "life" that she had at the point, or another which was the one that she wanted to have. She admits that her life up to the point of that moment had been spent in pursuing a life goal based upon the altar of materialism - the accumulation of more and more things and working her life away to earn the money to get those things. She states that she found that this did not indeed bring happiness and in fact would lead to an obituary that she did not want. So instead of working for materialism and listening to society's push for "more and more stuff", she decides to take a different path - she instead is going to focus on herself and her "happiness" and what makes her happy.

To me (and this is my opinion) this is just as false and shallow as the pursuit of more things as a means to happiness. She proceeds to enter into an affair, cheats on her husband, but then goes back to him and does try to save her marriage, but ultimately ends up leaving him to pursue "who she really is". And so in this soul-searching quest, she decides to enter the Atlantic rowing race and row across the ocean.

I have to admit that I come at this from a different worldview - one in which happiness is never guaranteed and in fact is very fleeting. My worldview says that life is painful, depressing at times, and hard at all others. There are moments of joy sprinkled throughout that highlight the hope that I live for, but these moments of joy are not the result of living for such an elusive goal as happiness.

I do appreciate the amazing, mind-blowing accomplishment that Roz achieved. It is a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit that can overcome obstacles that seem insurmountable but just taking one day at a time, and living in the present moment - and those are the lessons worthwhile taking away.

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