A Reader’s Response to Holding Fast: A Memoir of Sailing, Love, and Loss
by Rickey Pittman, Bard of the South
Writing a memoir is a delicate and sometimes tricky task for a writer. I’ve always enjoyed reading biographies of writers, and their memoirs. This month, I discovered Holding Fast: A Memoir of Sailing, Love, and Loss by Susan Cole, and in my opinion, Ms. Cole has created one of the finest memoirs I’ve ever read. It is an award-winning memoir, including being a finalist in the IAN Book of the Year Award in the Travel/Nature category. It has received many positive and impressive reviews. My method in this short review is to submit my own thoughts in a reader-response approach and reveal why I so enjoyed the memoir.
- First of all, I learned much about sailing, and many things caught me by surprise. The reader sees how Susan and her husband, John, learned to sail. Their sailing education was replete with setbacks, failures, battles with boat machinery, the difficulties of navigation, and the powerful hostility of weather and the sea. Though they experienced many splendid moments in their three-year journey, the dreamy thoughts of owning and operating sailboats vanish in the realities of sailing and the very real dangers one can face. (For some reason, the tone and delivery reminded me of reading Jimmy Buffet’s experiences with seaplanes.)
- This memoir can help the reader grow culturally. I can speak and read basic Spanish, but Cole surprised me by introducing new Spanish words, foods, fish, animals, new places (there is a hand-drawn map of their journeys), learning basic boat/sailing jargon, the captain’s log and importance, and introduce the close-knit world of other sailing families, who like the Coles traveled the world, helping others along the way.
- Susan and her husband were adventurers at heart, exploring seas, rivers, jungles, cities, and ancient ruins. This is a story of people who were willing to leave everything behind to sail away and follow their dreams. Cole has an honesty about her marriage, fears, and frustrations in her writing that is admirable. Their experiences with cancer provided a touching and powerful ending. Reading Holding Fast may awaken one’s own desire to launch out, take the risks, and pay the cost to follow long-held dreams and goals.
About Susan Cole:
You can find her on Facebook. Her website is https://www.susan-cole.com/index.htm I encourage you to visit and explore it to learn more about her life and her other writing accomplishments.
Cole, Susan, Holding Fast: A Memoir of Sailing, Love and Loss. White Bird Pub. 2021.