Book Review: All at Sea


All at Sea

Decca Aitkenhead

Fourth Estate

240 pages

I am an avid fan of Book of the Month Club for a myriad of reasons, one of them being that it introduces me to books I wouldn’t otherwise have read. This is one of those books. I had never even heard of it prior to the reveal of the September selections. There are so many books on my TBR list that I rarely read books that haven’t been fully vetted or where I am unfamiliar with the author, publisher, etc., but I made an exception for this one based on the synopsis (and just the fact that the BOTM judges chose it in the first place).

Decca Aitkenhead is on vacation in May of 2014 with her partner Tony and their two boys, ages 3 and 4. Decca is off further along the beach one morning when she spots her 4 year old in the ocean alone. She quickly realizes that her son, a novice swimmer, is drifting out to sea fast. She races out to save him, and notices that Tony, coming from the beach closer to their son, is attempting to swim out to him too. Decca and Tony are able to get Jake to safety, and Decca is relieved that they have avoided disaster. Until she realizes that Tony is dying before her very eyes.

All at Sea literally made me hold my breath multiple times. The rawness of Aitkenhead’s grief was difficult to read. As a reporter for the Guardian, Aitkenhead talks about how she is faced with this type of tragedy all the time, but it doesn’t have that realness unless you’ve actually experienced it. I understand what she means, because in reading things like this, I often think about how it is one of my worst nightmares, and yet I truly can’t fathom the pain and grief.

Aitkenhead was completely honest and open about her relationship with Tony, and his flaws. I was shocked to read that he was a crackhead. It’s one of those things–you hear crackhead and you can’t imagine that person being a contributing member of society. It may sound silly, but that stuck with me, that we don’t really know people, and not everyone is what we expect.

If you’re a fan of memoirs, this is a great one.  Just beware–it will break your heart.


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