The Boatmaker

A fierce, complicated, silent man wakes from a fever dream compelled to build a boat and sail away from the small island where he was born. The boat carries him to the next, bigger, island, where he becomes locked in a drunken and violent affair whose explosion propels him all the way to the mainland. There he works as a carpenter, struggles to stay sober, and attempts to understand the intricacies of a larger society and its dark underworld. After he is beaten and left for dead by two men he considered his friends, he is taken in by a charismatic priest whose mission is to cleanse the mainland of the corruption and impurities brought on by the current king. As the boatmaker’s journey takes him deeper into the layers of racial and religious hatred, he uncovers truths that allow him to redirect the course of his destiny. Part fable, part allegory, The Boatmaker is a haunting and passionate story of love and the voyage of self-discovery.

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Spare and solemn as a parable, John Benditt’s powerful first novel begins simply, with a man and a woman and a child in a little wooden house on remote, windswept Small Island. The man is feverish, dreaming of himself as a boy, walking toward a towering oak tree, its leaves rustling in the breeze. “Everything else is quiet; no insects or birds are singing. It’s high summer, the time of afternoon when the sun stands still and everything hushes. Even the sea.” If “The Boat­maker” were a film, Sven Nykvist would be its only possible cinematographer.”
– New York Times Book Review, March 29, 2015