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Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Like Many Voyages, The Family Ship Takes A Long Time to Get Anywhere

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"The ship, Verity realized, was their true church because they went there to show respect for order, for diligence, for their higher, more disciplined selves.  Sure, it was made-up, but what difference did that make?" (quote from an uncorrected e-ARC of The Family Ship, 11%)

When Arthur and Maeve Vergennes bought their home on an isolated inlet of the Chesapeake Bay, an old oyster boat came with the property.  They christened the grounded vessel Nepenthe.  Over the years, Arthur has used it to teach his nine children some of the discipline he gained while serving with the Navy in Korea.  Not only has it served as an elaborate playground for the kids, but through their many imaginary voyages they have formed themselves into a tight crew that values duty, dedication, and their father's family-first approach to life. 

Unlike her 14-year-old sister, who's grown embarrassed by the childish doings on Nepenthe, 18-year-old Verity still spends a lot of her time entertaining her younger siblings by planning and executing daring escapades.  Lately, though, she's feeling the weight of her responsibility.  Unbeknownst to her parents, she's applied to an out-of-state school.  She knows her father—who values family over everything else and intends for her to live at home while attending a local community college—will see it as a betrayal.  Especially since Verity's older brother, Jude, has already abandoned them.  Between Arthur's unwillingness to let her go and her mother's newest pregnancy, which is becoming increasingly worrisome, Verity feels trapped between duty to her family and her desire for a life of her own.  When tragedy strikes, she starts to realize just how alone she and her siblings really are.  Can they keep the family together when everything around them is falling apart?  Can the teamwork that unites them on Nepenthe save them as things go hopelessly awry?  If family love is supposed to cradle you in its protective arms, why does Verity feel like she's being suffocated by the very people who are supposed to love her most?

There's a lot to love about The Family Ship, the newest novel by Sonja Yoerg.  The idea of an old ship as both playground and school is a fun one.  The warm, large-family chaos described in the book rings true, especially for someone who's part of a big brood, like me.  I definitely relate to Verity's plight.  While Arthur's a complicated character, his dedication to his family makes him admirable, if not always understandable.  His wife is unrealistically angelic (I mean, c'mon, no stay-at-home mom adores all of her children every second of every day) but still likable.  While the kids all kind of blend together at times (which is true-to-life in a large clan), they have distinct personalities which make them feel like a believable bunch.  Their story involves some tough subject matter, but overall it's a hopeful tale, something I always appreciate in a family saga.  

My biggest problem with The Family Ship is that it drags on and on and on without really going anywhere.  I kept checking how far I'd read and being shocked when my Kindle said only "30%" or "47%."  Although the action picks up toward the end of the book, the story definitely drags and gets dull.  So, even though I enjoyed being enveloped in the Vergennes' lively household, I still wanted their tale to be more dynamic and exciting.  It's compelling, don't get me wrong.  It just takes Yoerg a loooonnnggg time to tell it.  In the end, then, I liked The Family Ship, but its wordiness and lack of plot made reading it more of a slog than it should have been.  Bummer.  I really wanted to love this one.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little bit of The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a few F-bombs, plus occasional milder expletives), violence, and disturbing subject matter (including a brief attempted rape scene)

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Family Ship from the generous folks at Lake Union Publishing via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!


  1. Can I just say that this reminds me of that Nickelodeon show back in the day with the twins? Man, I can't remember the title. But it was a cruise line/school. Lol.

    I absolutely love books that feature a big chaotic family! The hustle and bustle is so entertaining to watch.

    Lovely review, Susan.

    1. Sounds like a fun show! The author of THE FAMILY SHIP does say the idea of the grounded ship came from a real family. How fun would that be to play in?

  2. I hate when books drag, especially these days. I just don't have a lot of patience for slow-moving plots right now. Though I am intrigued by the setting and by Verity in this one. :)

    1. THE FAMILY SHIP is a good book. It just got long for me. I do wonder if it's JUST me, though. You'll have to read it and let me know what you think. You'll like Verity, too - she's sympathetic and relatable.

  3. This sounds so good, but when we start checking how far we are in a book it's never a good sign.

    1. Right? I felt like this book took me WEEKS to read. Again, not because it's a terrible read, just because it goes on and on and on without a lot happening. I got impatient with it, but I hung in there because I wanted to know what was going to happen to the family. I liked them and wanted everything to work out well for them, you know?

  4. Nice review Susan. I haven't read a Sonya Yoerg novel, but have a couple on my shelf. Too bad this one dragged at times.

    1. Her other books sound like ones I would like, but now I'm a little hesitant to try another one...

  5. I was curious about this book, so thanks for sharing your thoughts

    1. I've only seen one other blogger review it, so I'll be interested to see what others think. The book just barely came out, so we'll see.

  6. I like the sound of this. Thank you for your review. I enjoyed the Thursday Murder Club - hope you do too!

    1. THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB is super fun! I loved it.

  7. The idea of the ship is fascinating but yeah, I am not good at dragging books now.


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