Quill and Quire


« Back to
Book Reviews

The Water in Between

by Kevin Patterson

It is important to disabuse the reader of certain expectations at the outset: despite some of its trappings, The Water in Between is not the latest true-life nautical thriller, successor to Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm or Derek Lundy’s Godforsaken Sea. It is something much grander, much more significant: a graceful meditation on the nature of manhood and life, of escape and independence, and of finding a place in the world.

Kevin Patterson spent much of his early life – growing up in Selkirk, Manitoba, serving in the Canadian Army – dreaming of escape. In 1994, a failed love affair served as the catalyst for him to buy, on a whim, The Sea Mouse, and put out to Tahiti, blithely ignoring the fact that he had never sailed before.

This narrative framework – the passage to Tahiti, the climactic solo return crossing of the Pacific – is engrossing and well-
executed, though there is little sense of peril or drama. Patterson’s great gift as a writer is in the way he interweaves autobiographical fragments, meditations, and commentaries on his past, with his reading (Patterson’s thoughts on other traveller-writers, especially Bruce Chatwin, are insightful and thought-provoking), and with descriptions of the other sail refugees he encounters, all lone men, escaping from their lives. The reader witnesses the progress of Patterson’s growing self-awareness, and the richness of this internal journey is profoundly affecting. The Water in Between is well deserving of a place alongside Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines, Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard, and Paul Theroux’s The Happy Isles of Oceania, other much-loved voyages of loss, sadness, escape, and discovery.


Reviewer: Robert Wiersema

Publisher: Random House of Canada


Price: $32.95

Page Count: 304 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-679-30999-3

Released: Oct.

Issue Date: 1999-10

Categories: Memoir & Biography

Tags: , , , , ,