For me, many novels are ingested by a rapid inhalation. This one was a luxuriating stroll that picked up a maddening pace through an era I love, and in particular, a moment in that era set apart like no other maritime event.
From the day I picked out Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember from the library in 3rd grade, the bittersweet details surrounding every fact of the Titanic story never failed to capture me (my collection of info is embarrassingly large). When the movie came out in ’97, James Cameron revealed in the behind-the-scenes details that they had to use a torch in a lifeboat scene—a torch that was never in a lifeboat because there was no other way to light the scene. Forget binoculars. The lookouts were doing well to spot anything that freezing April night, especially because they didn’t have a moon to light the wash at the base of any icebergs.
So when a novel set on board a ship with a lofty reputation is released with the title By the Light of the Silvery Moon, even the newest coffee table book expert will lift their brows and cite, ‘It was a moonless night...’ So where does the moon fit in? At first I rebelled. I didn’t need any more Titanic (as Mr. Valley keeps reminding me). But on Twitter, Tricia Goyer’s smile is so gorgeous... Every time I was on there she just kept smiling at me! Go on... you know you want to...
I ordered the book, unable to keep from reading since the very moment I picked it up. Crossing the street between traffic with one’s nose between the pages of a book can be hazardous to one’s health (note to self).
There’s only one way to approach a setting and topic like this. It must be character-driven because you know how the story ends. The ship sinks. So. How did it go? Hee hee... The better question would be ‘Where do I start?’. Suffice it to say, Tricia doesn’t waste a single word in this thorough unpacking of the story of the Prodigal Son.
You can read the back cover blurb here.
1912 was a time when more people still believed in God than not, so I found it refreshing that the characters so willingly accepted talk of Him even if they did not profess a personal faith. One of the most beautiful and profound scenes for me in this book is where Quentin’s father, C.J., is having an evening chat with John Jacob Astor. It’s a gorgeous moment and insightful because C.J. offers the man who has everything something his heart both craves and needs.
Having witnessed this private moment, on another occasion Amelia reflects on how Quentin came to board the ship and the unexpected relationship between gift-giver and recipient gives her pause.
‘Where would he be if she hadn’t offered him the ticket?
He would have missed out on this, but she would have, too.’
In many respects this sums up the whole book for me. What is life worth if you don’t share what you have? For every believer, at the top of that list is the love of God. Expecting God to move in the ways of the unexpected can only happen when you step outside your own world and into chance—not coincidence, but God-incidents. We marvel at people with such lives of faith who put everything on the line while failing to see we can be one of them! We just need to pause and listen, then obey.
Quentin is a complex and broken character, and Amelia is his perfect antidote to all he’s ruined and left behind. Damien is a strong and dutiful older brother but so much more (I really liked him!). Their father is the complete epitome of everything you’d expect the Dad from Luke 15 to be. Their individual humanity is portrayed exactly.
The irony is that there is nothing expected about this book, even though you know the ship must sink and the son must be welcomed back. How it happens is truly engrossing and Tricia wraps the story around the reader so effortlessly that you don’t even realise how invested you are. It’s not just another Titanic story, which is what I’d feared. Phew.
There are a few editing glitches in the latter parts where I think the proofies must have simply gotten caught up in the pace and by then weren’t proofing at all ;) It was really the only thing I felt sad about because the rest was so darn good!
I won’t go on and on about the impact of the event because it’s something that should be read and dealt with as you turn the pages, but the sentiments on board and effect of the Titanic story on the world at the time does come across in many of the different quotes used. One of my all-time favourites is from the sinking when a husband says to his wife, “You go, and I’ll stay a while.”
You have a fair idea of what’s going to happen to the husband when the sentiment was women and children only. It’s heart-wrenching stuff when you remember it’s real.
Man. It really was a fabulous book and very historically spot-on, which is good because creative license can fast get out of hand and sink into the unbelievable, no pun intended. I would definitely recommend this book and next time Tricia is smiling at me on Twitter, I won’t hesitate.
Pure gold: ...to think something good can come out of... failings...
...past shouldn’t be forgotten... offer it to God to be transformed.
Yep. I would definitely recommend this one.
Tricia, you’re getting the message across in such a perfect and perceptive way. May God bless the words from your hands! Thank you for this book and so much more... XX