Famed swordfish boat captain Linda Greenlaw faces her greatest battle with nature—a newly adopted teenage daughter
Linda Greenlaw isn’t a woman who shies away from a challenge—a nationally renowned swordfish boat captain made famous in the film The Perfect Storm, Greenlaw is also a bestselling author and a television celebrity. Through hard work and determination, she had created a life of peaceful independence, living on a rugged island off the coast of Maine.
Then came Mariah.
A troubled fifteen-year-old, Mariah arrives on the island to stay with her uncle, an island newcomer and seemingly normal guy. The entire community is rocked when it is revealed that Mariah has suffered terrible abuse at his hands, and the island comes together to rescue the teenager from further harm. Alone and at risk, Mariah needs a guardian and the island residents nominate Linda, who is not exactly the picture of maternal warmth.
A remarkably candid and tenderly funny memoir, Lifesaving Lessons follows this unexpected mother-daughter pair as they navigate their new life together, learning to trust themselves and each other and forge the loving family that neither of them knew they needed.
As a swordfish boat captain and successful author, Greenlaw (Seaworthy and The Hungry Ocean) worked hard creating an independent life on an idyllic island off the coast of Maine. She settled into a rewarding routine of writing, fishing and family obligations. Unexpectedly, she became the legal guardian for a sexually abused teenage girl. Creating a loving home for her new daughter becomes a monumental three-year struggle of wills between the no-nonsense Greenlaw and the needy, confused, and surly teenager, who needs extra love and care. As the scope of the girl’s abuse becomes clear and a darker side of island life is revealed, Greenlaw receives support from an unexpected quarter: the island’s community of women. Not prone to friendship with females, Greenlaw revels in the intensity of the bonds created by the teenager’s plight. “These friendships were tight and immediate and as heartfelt as any I had with my longtime guy friends.” While struggling to get up to speed with her mothering skills, Greenlaw laments the status of her romantic but stalled relationship. “But we weren’t married, and I had just latched on to the realization that we never would be. This was depressing.” Greenlaw’s memoir deftly chronicles her journey to motherhood, without whitewashing away the toughness of the trek or the joy she experiences along the way. Agent: Stuart Krichevsky, Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency. (Mar.)
The country's only female swordfish-boat captain, a Discovery Channel star, and the author of three New York Times best sellers, Greenlaw took on a new challenge when her island community made her guardian of teenaged Mariah. Mariah had come there to live with her uncle, a newcomer who turned out to have abused her terribly. A tale, then, of love and healing; with a six-city tour.
America's only female swordfish-boat captain returns with a straightforward account of the challenges she faced in becoming the legal guardian of a sexually abused teenager and in balancing unexpected motherhood with her reclusive lifestyle on a tiny island off the coast of Maine. A resident of Isle au Haut, whose population at the time numbered less than 50 in the off-season, Greenlaw (Seaworthy, 2010, etc.) and her community were disturbed to realize they did not live in a "[p]ristine" place. Upon learning that a pedophile resided among them, they rallied to aid Mariah, a 15-year-old who had moved to the island with her stepfather's alcoholic brother, "Uncle" Ken. Greenlaw charts the course of her earlier choice to live a childless life through events that led to Mariah's rescue, Ken's arrest, trial and conviction, and its aftermath. The author's no-nonsense approach to daily life led to honest admissions of selfishness and her desire for solitude, but she gradually warmed to the realization that guardianship involved more than providing material needs and security. Secondary themes of sisterhood and of developing female friendships later in life add depth to a work that otherwise explores a sensitive topic in familiar ways--from initial outrage to healing, wariness to acceptance, and an adolescent's tumultuous beginnings to high school graduation and acceptance to college. Though descriptions of emotions occasionally step into cliché, Greenlaw is at her finest when drawing parallels between life at sea and her new role as a mother. A competent work intended to encourage others in similar situations, but will appeal most to fans of Greenlaw's previous Isle au Haut installment, The Lobster Chronicles.
Linda Greenlaw is America’s only female swordfish boat captain and was featured in the book and film The Perfect Storm and in the Discovery Channel series Swords: Life on the Line. She has written three New York Times bestsellers, including The Lobster Chronicles, two mysteries and has coauthored a cookbook. She currently lives on Isle au Haut, Maine.
Growing up on coastal Maine, Linda Greenlaw was entranced by the ocean and everything that swam in it. When other kids got their first 10-speed bicycles, she got her first 10-horsepower outboard. Later, Greenlaw literally sailed her way through college, spending her summers as a cook and deck hand on a swordfishing boat. After graduating from Colby College with a double major in English and government, Greenlaw returned to the sailor's life, becoming a ship captain when she was in her 20s and earning a reputation as "one of the best swordboat captains, period, on the East Coast" (in the words of Perfect Storm author Sebastian Junger).
For over 15 years, this remarkable achievement went generally unremarked-upon. Then came Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm, the true story of the fishing boat Andrea Gail, which disappeared in a hurricane at sea in October of 1991. Greenlaw was captain of the Andrea Gail's sister ship, the Hannah Boden, which was also at sea during the fateful storm. Though Greenlaw is only a minor figure in Junger's book, readers were intrigued by the idea of a woman who'd made it to the top in a heavily male-dominated -- and highly dangerous -- profession.
Publishers were intrigued, too, and several of them approached Greenlaw with offers for a book about her experiences. At first she turned them down, saying she could make more money actually fishing for a season than writing about fishing. But at last she decided to give it a try, and her readers are glad she did. Her book The Hungry Ocean is a riveting look at the day-to-day operations of a large commercial fishing boat, complete with storms, sharks and, on one grim occasion, a dead crew member in the fish hold. In the great fisherman tradition, The Hungry Ocean is also a ripping good story, one The New York Times Book Review declared a "triumph."
Greenlaw agreed to write her first book in part because she wanted to lead a settled existence for a while, perhaps get married and start a family. In her second book, The Lobster Chronicles, she describes trading the adventurous life of an offshore swordboat captain for the comparatively quiet business of trapping lobsters in Penobscot Bay. As she reconnects with her roots on the tiny Isle au Haut ("forty-seven full-time residents, half of whom I am related to in one way or another"), she deals with nosy neighbors, a dearth of available men, and recalcitrant crustaceans who refuse to crawl into her traps. She also evokes a life of simplicity and self-sufficiency that her readers might well envy: Her island has no Kmart ("or any other mart"), no Starbucks, no cable TV. "Straightforward storytelling and captivating reading: satisfying as a Maine lobster dinner," wrote Kirkus Reviews.
So far, Greenlaw is shaping up to be as talented a writer as she is a fisherman (she objects strenuously to being called a "fisherwoman"). Possibly the only woman ever to captain a swordfishing boat, she has insisted that being a female captain is an asset: "No self-respecting fisherman wants to be outdone by a woman, even if it kills him." Perhaps her books will inspire other female fishermen to join the fray.
Good To Know
In her years as a swordboat captain, Greenlaw's biggest single swordfish was a 635-pound fish caught in the Carribean, according to a USA Today chat with the author. Her largest total load in one trip was 62,000 pounds.
In a TV interview with Brian Lamb on C-SPAN, Greenlaw said she's "one of the only people probably on the planet who does not own a cell phone. But I have a VHF radio."
In the movie version of The Perfect Storm, Linda Greenlaw was played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.