Before the Wind by Jim Lynch

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Lynch’s greatest success with the Johannssens is to show just how much of our personalities are formed by our family’s expectations. Even in the ways we resist becoming what our families want us to be, we’re nonetheless the result of rebelling against those expectations.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

Following The Highest Tide, Border Songs, and Truth Like the Sun, Jim Lynch now gives us a grand and idiosyncratic family saga that will stand alongside Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion.

Joshua Johannssen has spent all of his life surrounded by sailboats. His grandfather designed them, his father built and raced them, his Einstein-obsessed mother knows why and how they work (or not). For Josh and his two siblings, their backyard was the Puget Sound and sailing their DNA. But both his sister and brother fled many years ago: Ruby to Africa and elsewhere to do good works on land, and Bernard to god-knows-where at sea, a fugitive and pirate. Suddenly thirty-one, Josh—who repairs boats of all kinds in a Steinbeckian marina south of Seattle—is pained and confused by whatever the hell went wrong with his volatile family. His parents are barely speaking, his mystified grandfather is drinking harder, and he himself—despite an endless and comic flurry of online dates—hasn’t even come close to finding a girlfriend. 

But when the Johannssens unexpectedly reunite for the most important race in these waters—all of them together on a classic vessel they made decades ago—they will be carried to destinies both individual and collective, and to a heart-shattering revelation. Past and present merge seamlessly and collide surprisingly as Jim Lynch reveals a family unlike any other, with the grace and humor and magic of a master storyteller.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Jim Lynch

See more books from this Author
JIM LYNCH lives with his wife in Olympia, Washington. His novels The Highest Tide and Border Songs have been adapted for the stage in Seattle. The author lives in Olympia, WA.
 
Published April 19, 2016 by Vintage. 306 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment, Action & Adventure. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Before the Wind
All: 6 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
on Jan 31 2016

Lynch dissects an uncommon family with, after all, more than one thing in common in a highly readable tale.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Mar 21 2016

Traveling back and forth over the history of the Johannssens, the author writes both humorously and movingly about one family’s lifelong love of sailing. For those who love a good sea story, this novel will be as bracing as salt spray during an autumn sail.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Caitlin Macy on May 06 2016

This is an incredibly robust evocation of the sailing world of Puget Sound. That, and the memorable portrait of Ruby Johannssen, carried me through the final pages of the novel, in which several plot lines are somewhat hastily wrapped up.

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Washington Times

Good
Reviewed by Claire Hopley on Apr 19 2016

This novel has something of both forms, and also something of the sailor’s yarn and much of the family epic. It’s an exhilarating read.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Andrew Kaufman on Apr 20 2016

Lynch’s greatest success with the Johannssens is to show just how much of our personalities are formed by our family’s expectations. Even in the ways we resist becoming what our families want us to be, we’re nonetheless the result of rebelling against those expectations.

Read Full Review of Before the Wind | See more reviews from National Post arts

Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Robert Wiersema on May 01 2016

Lynch, a writer I have long admired, writes powerfully and naturalistically, plunging the reader into an alien world, all the while concealing, like the best of magicians, what is really going on. Before the Wind is a magical, heartbreaking book.

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Reader Rating for Before the Wind
92%

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