the surfacing

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The Surfacing
By Cormac James
384 pages; Bellevue Literary Press

Why Your Book Club Will Love It: There's one hell of a woman on this harrowing Arctic adventure. You'll want to invite her to your next gathering.

The Burning Questions: How do you keep hope alive when all odds are against you? And what's scarier—life-and-death peril or parenthood?

What to Bring to Your Meeting: Ice, of course. And something to pour over it.

True backstory: In 1850, the English Admiralty sent several ships to try to find Sir John Franklin and his crew, explorers who'd disappeared in the Arctic. The Surfacing is the fictional story of one such rescue boat. Although the men believe their mission is futile, they're duty-bound: "We must make our very best effort, " the captain says—to which the on-board doctor adds, "The drawing rooms of London will not tolerate anything less." Soon, everything that can go wrong does: A young crew member drowns, the arrogant captain underestimates danger and a cracked rudder forces a dangerous delay as the ice thickens. Plus, there's a fascinating stowaway: Miss Kitty Rink, who'd snuck onboard after a liaison with the second officer during his shore leave in Greenland. As fate would have it, she's pregnant. Though the first 50 pages are slow moving, not to worry. The rest move so quickly, you'll be calling each other halfway through the month, just to chat about the ending.
Dawn Raffel