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Fourteen: A Daughter's Memoir of Adventure,…

Fourteen: A Daughter's Memoir of Adventure, Sailing, and Survival

by Leslie Johansen Nack

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In some ways, Leslie Johansen Nack’s memoir evokes my own teenage years, in the seventies. Her father eats Grape Nuts, but the kids are excited about Froot Loops. Strumming the guitar is a nice way of spending time. The older boy who’s foxy and tan, makes out with you, and then drops you.
But then there are the unusual parts. She and her sisters are taken out of school to sail to Tahiti in their father’s boat. Their dad, Bjorn, a Norwegian tough guy, expects her and her sisters to procure dinner by spearfishing in the lagoon. He sends Leslie’s sisters back to the States, and keeps her on as his skipper, hiring three strangers to help him pilot a worn-out ketch (two-masted sailing boat) to California. Leslie is only fourteen, but sturdy and capable. She enjoys her father’s trust, though she’s repelled by his creepy attentions, which cross the line.
Although Leslie obviously survived to write the book, I found it hard to put down her story because of the suspense. Insane situations kept cropping up; I wondered how her parents would react—much as she herself wondered at the time. She did not grow up with stability or nurturing; yet the book isn’t just an “abuse” memoir. The simple language candidly expresses the complex emotions Leslie felt: pride in her sailing skills, joy in her friendships, disappointment in her mother’s neglect, delight in the sea, in all its capriciousness.
The photographs in the book and on her website are a plus.
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  AuthorGabrielle | May 28, 2017 |
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