Float Plan by Trish Doller

Float Plan by Trish Doller

Doller, Trish. Float Plan. St. Martin’s Press, 2021. 272 pp. ISBN 9781250767943. $16.99


Instead of showing up for Thanksgiving dinner, Anna makes a run through the grocery store for limes and a flashlight, dried beans and rice, playing cards and boxed milk: shipboard essentials for going away to sea for “awhile.” Ten months into her healing from the loss of her fiance by suicide, Anna is eloping from her life to take the trip of a lifetime through the Caribbean in the boat Ben restored, on the trip they had planned to take together. He may not have a fully fleshed out float plan, just a final destination of Trinidad, to a beach where they’d planned to marry, and a map of ports of call between Fort Lauderdale and the Bahamas. She quickly realizes her limitations and hires on the more seasoned sailor Keane to help her navigate the islands. They form a compelling partnership as Anna learns to navigate both the sailboat and her grief. Along they way, they pick up a stray dog, Keane’s brother joins them for a while, they spent Christmas and New Years in the Bahamas.

Anna’s journey and resiliency are raw and imperfect, the characterizations nuanced, and the author doesn’t shy award from tough topics–Ben’s goodbye letter to Anna prefaces the story; Keane, disabled from an accident, has his own doubts and demons to overcome but is a decent and good man, sensitive, kind, supportive, and honest. Details like Anna’s mother’s German-accented English, the dolphins (famed for assisting humans in times of need) that accompany Anna out of the harbor at the start of her journey, and the geography of the Florida coastline are vivid. Descriptions of the design, vibe, food, people and culture of the various islands Anna and Keane visit bring the novel to life. The writing is masterful; sentences like “his mouth is bracketed by disapproval” convey emotion without overstating. Keane often speaks in proverbs, telling Anna the things she needs to hear to keep going: sometimes you have to throw out the map; what we need at present is not to let fear rule the day. At some point, Anna realizes that Keane is the person Ben was trying to be: not just a man in motion, but a man with direction. I don’t know that I’d call this a slow burn book, but the pacing is perfect for the romantic element.

Doller touches on faith lightly, in several conversations about God. Keane is Irish Catholic and finds a church when their shore leave coincides with Sundays. and at one point, Anna wonders if having faith would have saved Ben; all we know is struggled with depression for a long time.

I read this over a year ago, and didn’t review it at the time; a year and half later, it’s sticking with me and I even have quoted it: “the stages of grief are not linear. They are random and unpredictable, folding back on themselves until you begin mourning all over again.” So true, so evocative. Keane tells Anna he understands loss and reassures her that eventually, “You’ll start building a new house beside the ruins of the old.”

Anna’s sister Rachel and niece Maisie are referenced several times; read the The Suite Spot for Rachel’s story, and to get a glimpse of Anna and Keane and Queenie and their happiness post-Float Plan.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #FloatPlan from #NetGalley.

3 responses »

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