Book Review // The Unsinkable Greta James
Jennifer E. Smith's latest novel spins tale of embattled songwriter
When Greta James was young, she could only dream of becoming a successful musician. When her father bought her a guitar and she began practicing in the family's garage, those dreams started to take a more meaningful shape.
But it wasn't an easy path. From dive bars and small venues, Greta grew her fan base and eventually achieved indie stardom, featuring on magazine covers and playing sold-out venues. Her mother Helen was there every step of the way, supporting her daughter as her first and biggest fan. However, her father Conrad was not so supportive, only seeing an unpredictable career path for his daughter, worrying about her financial and professional stability.
Greta spends most of her career trying to prove him wrong, creating a rift between them that only grows larger over the years. But following Helen's sudden death and only weeks before her sophomore album is set to release, Greta finds herself spiraling and has an epic meltdown onstage, leading to an embarrassing video that goes viral.
Humiliated and still reeling, she finds herself grudgingly agreeing to accompany her father on a week-long Alaskan cruise that her parents had booked for their 40th anniversary. With tensions mounting between Greta and her father since her mother's death, this cruise could be the last chance they have to make amends and heal their now smaller family.
Alongside historian Ben Wilder, an author aboard the ship who catches her attention, Greta must figure out how to move forward and together try to make sense of the difficult choices in life.
The true spotlight in this book, though, shines on Jennifer E. Smith's writing: characters with larger-than-life personalities, heartbreaking and heartwarming moments, and breathtaking landscapes painted so delicately yet vividly through prose are all the stars of this novel. For those looking for adventure and emotion, you'll find it in The Unsinkable Greta James. — Ally Kutz
Ballantine Books // 292 pages // Contemporary Fiction