Cap­tain’s Book­shelf

Passage Maker - - Rest - Cove

Cy­nan Jones’ Cove is a riv­et­ing story. At only 92 pages, it’s just a short novel, and I read the en­tire story in one sit­ting as my son napped on a re­cent flight from Seat­tle to Chicago. He doesn’t nap well, so I was happy to fin­ish the story and still have time to re­flect on it be­fore he opened his eyes.

In Cove the un­named pro­tag­o­nist finds him­self stranded aboard his kayak at sea af­ter be­ing struck by light­ning. He awakes with no mem­ory of who he is, where he is, or what he was do­ing. The man strug­gles through hal­lu­ci­na­tions, dreams, and fac­ing grim re­al­ity alone. The tran­si­tions in and out of real v. imag­i­nary are in­ten­tion­ally mys­te­ri­ous, giv­ing the reader a sense of what it might be like to be in­jured, am­ne­siac, and lost at sea.

The story takes place en­tirely in his small kayak, adrift at sea, and an in­de­ter­mi­nate amount of time passes as he strug­gles to sur­vive, to re­mem­ber who he is, and de­ter­mine how to get back to shore. As the book pro­gresses, there are brief flashes of mem­o­ries of a woman, of his fa­ther, and the re­al­iza­tion that he is at sea to dis­perse his fa­ther’s ashes. Th­ese thoughts, re­al­i­ties, and delu­sions never quite cre­ate a lin­ear path—and nor should they—as they il­lus­trate the strug­gle that the kayaker is en­dur­ing.

In ad­di­tion to the premise of the story and the in­trigu­ing nar­ra­tive, Jones’ prose it­self is well con­sid­ered. Ev­ery el­e­ment of the text works to con­vey the cen­tral themes of the book. The name­less­ness of the char­ac­ters em­pha­sizes the feel­ings of iso­la­tion and pri­mal fear. Even the phys­i­cal lay­out of the pages, set with wide mar­gins that iso­late the text from the edge of the page, cre­ates an ex­pan­sive white space that deep­ens the read­ers’ sense of pro­found lone­li­ness. (Th­ese ex­pan­sive mar­gins per­haps also helped me fin­ish read­ing with time to spare dur­ing my son’s power nap.)

While Cove is far from a tale of pas­sage­mak­ing, it digs deep into the fear of be­ing purely at the mercy of the sea and weather, a feel­ing to which many blue­wa­ter cruis­ers will be able to re­late. In this story, Jones packs in mas­ter­ful de­scrip­tions—feel­ings of numb­ness, the smell of burnt hair and flesh, the raw­ness of a hand left in the wa­ter while un­con­scious—that al­low the reader to smell the salt air and feel the pro­tag­o­nist’s con­trolled panic.

So, if you find your­self miss­ing the wa­ter this win­ter, need a short book to kick­start your off­sea­son read­ing, or are sim­ply look­ing for a grip­ping novel to add to the top of your pile, I highly rec­om­mend pick­ing up this one. Oh, and if you take off in your kayak alone, make sure to keep a charged EPIRB on­board.

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