From Publishers Weekly
In 1996, nine Filipino crewmen of the Maersk Dubai
jumped ship in Halifax, reporting that the ship's Taiwanese officers had murdered three Romanian stowaways. Hough (The Final Confession of Mabel Stark
) draws on contemporaneous news reports, court proceedings, interviews with some of the crewmen and his own empathy and exceptional narrative intuition to tell this story of cruelty and courage, crafting not only a maritime adventure but also a resonant, timely morality tale. In the haunting opening chapter, pious Filipino bosun Rodolfo Miguel watches as two stowaways whom he sought to help are set adrift in the cold Atlantic at the orders of the container ship's Taiwanese officers. Hough juxtaposes the efforts of Rodolfo and the rest of the primarily Filipino crew to do the right thing in the tragedy's aftermath with the odyssey of Daniel, a down-and-out Romanian youth desperate to make it to America. Though Daniel and his friend Gheorghe have no connection to the deceased pair, their parallel circumstances make it easy to see where their story is going, as, in a spiral of setbacks, the two move inexorably closer to the Maersk Dubai
. Though the valiant Filipinos will risk everything to protect these new stowaways, their fate is far from assured. This is a moving, haunting novel, full of deeply sympathetic portraits of common people being uncommonly brave.
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In 1996, some members of the crew of the Maersk Dubai
accused the ship's captain of murdering stowaways by setting them adrift at sea. The story prompted news coverage around the world, but nothing quite like this haunting novel. The author, who originally intended his book to be nonfiction, includes many real-life figures involved in the Maersk Dubai
tragedies, including the three crewmen who made the accusations against the ship's captain. (The three don't come off as capital-H heroes so much as honorable men who couldn't live with knowing what they knew.) By fictionalizing some parts of the narrative--especially the ordeal of a surviving stowaway--Hough is able to get deeper into the story than a straightforward, just-the-facts account would have allowed. He reads between the lines, fleshes out the story, takes us into the minds of the people involved, and, as a result, brings the incident to vivid life. It's tricky to turn a real-life story into a novel, but Hough succeeds admirably. David PittCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved