Book Review: Before The Wind by Jim Lynch


You don't need to be a sailing enthusiast to enjoy Jim Lynch's latest novel, though it wouldn't hurt. Before the Wind tells the story of the Johannssen family from Puget Sound in Washington, a sailing brood, all three generations. The narrator is Josh, named for Joshua Slocum, the acclaimed sailor who wrote Sailing Alone Around the World (which he actually did; the first one to boot), who however turns out to be a better boat mechanic than sailor. 

The truly gifted wave runner is his sister Ruby, a prodigy whom, by the age of seventeen, was the favorite in the US Olympic trials. His brother Bernard is kind of a black sheep, dabbling in the seamier side of boating. His mom is a physicist with an Einstein complex, who works the wind shear geometry for her crew. And Grumps is the elder of the clan. He designed the classic brand of sailing vessel dubbed the Joho. By the opening of the novel the Johannssens are all ascatter.

Out of the blue, Josh's old man Bobo jr. shows up at Josh's marina with the plan of reuniting everyone to compete in Swiftsure, an annual 112 mile sailboat race. Throughout we learn of small failures, disasters, and victories, but ultimately, Lynch steers his tale through both gale and doldrums to expertly guide his readers to a satisfying finish.

~ 3.8 Stars

  • Title: Before the Wind
  • Author: Jim Lynch
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (April 19, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307958981
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307958983