Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Stowaway: A Novel Hardcover – September 20, 2004
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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 Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
you are captivated by the story of refugees trying to stuggle.
The refugees come from Romania and the author recreates their
world with shattering and terrifying detail. Interspersed with
the stories of refugees's struggle to make it to the west, are
the stories of a group of Filipino sailors who work on a large
carrier that is crossing the ocean from Spain to North America.
The story of the sailors held less interest to me as I was often
confused by their nautical roles. I am just not one for stories
about the sea. But there is so much tension and terror in this
great novel, that when the two worlds collide, you don't know what will happen and you fear for the worst. For this reader
the stregth of the novel is the depiction of the wonderful Romanian stowaways. Anyone who is interested in the life of
an immigrant and the horrors of the eastern european world under
communism, will find this story fascinating.
As an extra treat, the author provides an excellent afterword
to the book which describes the process he carried through to
complete this book. It is insightful and very helpful to read about the true adventures of the characters he bases his book
on. I have very high regard for this author and this novel.
It is a very informative, exciting and strongly persuasive read.
His first novel, a fictionalized memoir, "The Final Confession of Mabel Stark," was a raucous, atmospheric portrait of a real female tiger trainer in the heyday of the big circus. His second couldn't be more different, except that it's also based on real people and real events.
Hough sticks closer to fact in this contemporary sea story, working from participant interviews and official documents. The harrowing tale, which many readers will remember from newspaper accounts, begins with two Romanian stowaways discovered aboard the container ship Maersk Dubai in March 1996. The Filipino bosun, Rodolfo Miguel, escorts them to the Taiwanese officers who argue briefly among themselves before reaching a decision that fills Rodolfo with horror.
What follows is a deliberate, detailed recreation of the Romanians' last moments. Though they share no common language with the Filipino crew or Taiwanese officers, understanding is not long in coming. "Rodolfo can see this understanding disfigure their faces and turn their skin the colour of ash. In a second, their hands are in the air, posed in a symbol of prayer, and they are pleading again, "Por favor, por favor, por favor...."
The captain has Rodolfo and his seamen lash together a flimsy raft and throw it overboard. "The younger stowaway refuses to move. His knees have fused, his hands have clamped to the knotted rope banister, his words have become a torrent." And when it's all over: "Rodolfo stands perfectly still, gaping not so much at the alacrity with which two men ceased to be, but at the impeccable ease with which evil appeared out of salty vapour, and claimed for itself the Maersk Dubai."
Intercut with the claustrophobic dread aboard the voyaging container ship, as the officers dispense small treats and bribes to the stunned crew, is the story of another young, desperate Romanian, Daniel Pacepa, as he makes his illegal way across Europe, towards a big ship and a stowaway passage to America.
Daniel's real-life counterpart refused to co-operate in the writing of this novel, so Hough has made his adventure a composite of numerous other Romanian emigrants' experiences, involving narrow escapes, the kindness of strangers, man's ordinary inhumanity to others less fortunate, lots of drinking and drugs and work where he can get it. But Daniel never comes across as a type; he's a lonely, hopeful, cunning and resourceful individual, a bit lost and out of his depth until he meets an older, bigger, drunker, more experienced companion, Gheorghe Mihoc (real name), in the drunk tank of a Bucharest jail.
As Daniel and Gheorghe hop trains, brawl, flee, go hungry, drink copious amounts of alcohol and work their way across Europe to that hub of illegal embarkation, Algeciras, Spain, the crewmen aboard the Maersk Dubai spiral down into an almost surreal life of fear, danger and mistrust.
The officers no longer bribe them with delicacies and promises of promotion. In most ports they are unable to leave the boat and when they do get leave fear keeps them silent. They are watched, and when they meet secretly it's more for the comfort of solidarity than any hope of planning action. Slowly the sense of urgency and horror ebb. The men just want to make it through the trip.
Things aboard the boat begin to break down. There's a carbon monoxide leak in the engine room, the lifeboat mechanism is malfunctioning, the emergency fire pumps are broken and the water sterilizers are faulty. The third engineer is forced to pump bilge into the ocean, an offense that could cost him his license. Despair and anger and defeat hang in the air they breathe.
But Daniel Pacepa and Gheorghe Mihoc are on a collision course with the Maersk Dubai. What happens when they come together is a tense tale of heroism, betrayal and mortal danger for all involved.
Hough, whose writing is effortlessly poetic and evocative, goes for the human component behind each action and inaction. While he never stints on the adventure and suspense, his primary focus is the human heart; what any individual is willing to live or not live with, and how the group dynamic and a man's social status (crew vs. officer, poverty vs. authority) affects this morality. If this seems reminiscent of Joseph Conrad, it is doubtless not an accident. Hough's sophomore effort resonates long after the last page is turned and I, for one, can't wait to see what he fastens on next.
My personal favorite element of the novel is Hough's description of the decimated social and political landscape of Romania and neighboring European countries. His words leave a lingering impression on the reader, and inspired me to learn more about the history of Romania under the brutal reign of Ceausescu.
Also, the author's use of the present-tense in his narrative is an unusual and refreshing change of pace from the status quo.