The Deepest Waters
By Dan Walsh
Ship wrecks, dysfunctional families, theft, and slavery come together in Dan Walsh's third novel, The Deepest Waters. The story takes place over the course of four days in 1857. A couple on their honeymoon travel by sea from San Francisco to New York City to meet his family and encounter tragedy. Walsh bases his book on a true event. A paddlewheel steamship went down off the eastern US coast, and some of the reported human interest stories, such as a bride packing along her wedding gifts, add poignancy to this work of fiction.
The reality of being adrift both on land on sea was well-described; the characters each drawn lovingly. The California Gold Rush is downplayed to the point that Walsh doesn't reveal the reason a single woman, Laura, apparently doing nothing, was far from her family home until well into the novel, or the business John had been engaged in until nearly the end. Walsh succeeds in portraying a devastating shipwreck and strong characters who survive because of their hope and faith, not necessarily that the other lives through the ordeal, but that no matter what happens, God will take care of them.
How to tell this story, to keep up the drama of the sinking ship, the angst of parting so soon as the wedding, rescue, being set adrift at sea, family issues, multiple cases of shipboard dynamics, even the undercurrents of slavery, is a challenge. The beginning of John and Laura's relationship might have been considered too slow but I would have preferred that to the flashbacks and constant interruption in place and time and narrator. There is a lot of activity going on from at least three scenarios during the same time period over four days, which may appeal to some readers but I like to read quickly, so I had to backtrack several times.
Although there is plenty of excitement, there are also many convenient happy coincidences. The cover is beautiful; the book easily readable for distracted moms and business people who snatch moments for a good story at lunch and toddler naptimes. However, Walsh's style and description is engaging and maturing, and that's what we reader fans like to see in authors we follow.
Available April 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.