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  • Monika Satote

The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom : Book Review

Updated: Dec 20, 2021

Every day, I juggle my choices. I am confused about what to make out of many things. Having to take so many decisions destroys the decision-making capacity of a person. And then you come across some books that make that fog disappear. Everything looks crystal clear. I cannot tell you how many of my decisions get a form only and only based on the books I read. It is crazy and serene at the same time. It is not the influence, but I get the right signs. Sometimes that accords with my guts, and it becomes easy. That is how it works. The Stranger in The Lifeboat was one such book.

"Sometimes you have to shed who you were to live who you are"

A big ship named Galaxy explodes, and so many people die. But nine from the ship somehow get on the floating raft, a lifeboat. With almost no water and food, they manage to survive a few days. It gets difficult as they start facing scarcity of food and water. After 3-4 days, they save a man who they see floating in the waves. To their surprise, the man claims to be the Lord. He says that he has come there because everyone called him for help.

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Imagine calling the Lord for help, and he appears there. Too unbelievable, right? Nobody on the raft believes the stranger. Everyone is confused, annoyed and they do not want to look like a fool now. But a few unusual things happen, and that is how it begins. To believe the stranger or not. To hope for life or not.

The story shifts between three sections: Sea, Land and News. Sea portion talks about the survivors' time on the lifeboat. It is seen through one of the travelers, Benjamin, who writes to his dead wife every day, telling her about the events happening. The land section is set on an island, and the timeline is after one year of the ship explosion. It highlights the inspector LeFleur who finds the diary. News is to connect the stories, the events and some character briefing.

The book keeps you on the edge, quite literally. Keeps us guessing whether the man is a God? There is the mystery about characters, the events, the diary and everything in between. But you get the answers.

"In the end, there is the sea and the land and the news that happens between them. To spread that news, we tell each other stories. Sometimes the stories are about survival. And sometimes those stories, like the presence of the Lord, are hard to believe. Unless believing is what makes them true."

I do not believe in God. That's one thing.

The book makes you ponder on your beliefs. Not that it changes your mind to believe in God…because it surely didn't change mine. BUT, the book uses God as a medium to deliver the message. That too, we don't know if the stranger is God? He just claims to be one.

As humans, we are unaware of who we are - of our loved ones, of our beliefs, of our faith. Initially, when I saw that the book talks of God, I was worried that the book would turn spiritual. But nope. It has all the elements. It is fast-paced and like a thriller in the last few pages.

At some points, I was trembling and crying, and I don’t know why. I freaking do not know. Many things about the personal lives of these passengers, the notebook, the inspector and his past, all impacted me deeply. So deeply that I reconsidered some of my latest decisions. I will write about this book once again, I will.


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