If you've ever owned a sailboat or had a friend who did, you know how it begins: with a dream. You dream about the ship, and gradually the dream consumes you. Practical considerations lose all meaning ... until, inevitably, the dream morphs into a nightmare. David Vann is familiar with that nightmare. His begins in Turkey: a thirty-year-old tourist, he stumbles across the steel frame of a ninety-foot sailboat that cries out to be built. From friends, family, and credit cards, he borrows the 150,000 to construct the ship. The Turkish builders take shameless advantage of him, eventually charging him over 500,000. On the edge of financial ruin, Vann starts a chartering business. But, when some new part of the ship isn't falling apart, he encounters freak storms. As his debts escalate, Vann begins to wonder if he is merely repeating his father's dreams and failures at sea—which ended with his father's suicide. At once a page-turning true story of adventure on the open ocean and an archetypal tale of one man's attempt to overcome fate and realize his dream, A Mile Down is an unforgettable story of struggle and redemption by a writer at the top of his form.
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What People are Saying About This
"A Mile Down is pure adrenaline. Vann by all rights should have died at sea, and yet he's lived to tell about it. But the thrill comes also from other kinds of risk-risk of repeating his father's suicide, risk of financial disaster, risk of prosecution, risk of losing everything including who he believes himself to be. This story won't let you go."
author of The Dead Girl and Halfway Heaven
"A Mile Down is superbly crafted. As in the great epics, the
protagonist faces an unrelenting crush of disasters, bad luck, and ill
will, yet picks himself up over and over to carry on. . . . David Vann
has created a tale of hubris and endurance that is both exciting and
author of The Goodlife and Miracle Girl
"Riveting, heartbreaking, and redemptive . . . A Mile Down is a memoir
as engaging as the most compelling of novels . . . This is an immensely
moving and exciting book-it's as if one of the heroes of The Perfect
Storm had lived to write his memoirs."
author of 3 and The Bad Daughter
"A Mile Down is mandatory reading for anyone who's ever flirted with
thoughts of a life spent at sea."
author of Vinegar Hill
"At once memoir, confession, travel book, and thriller, David Vann's A Mile Down is so vivid and intense you will dread to see it end. . . .
The book is a testimony of passion and courage in deadly storms and
scarier calms, of a man wrestling with his ghosts and gifts in the very
shadow of paradise."
author of Gap Creek
"A Mile Down would be a cautionary tale for anyone who dreams of the freedom of the high seas-if only it wasn't so damn exciting. . . ."
coauthor with Stephen King of Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season and author of The Good Wife
"A Mile Down is far more than a tale of ruin at sea. It's also a story
of desire and shame, of the struggle to escape our histories and know
our dreams. Vann writes that 'A life can be like a work of art,
constantly melted away and reshaped,' and he shows us this reshaping,
this rebirth of hope from despair and ruin, so powerfully I couldn't
put the book down. You have to read this book, even if you care nothing
about sailing or the sea. Just read it."
author of Cane River
"A Mile Down is a riveting and truthful account of a good man's attempt
to stay afloat on treacherous waters. This book reminded me of Robert
Stone's Outerbridge Reach, or John Casey's Spartina, but in many ways
Vann's odyssey is more unforgettable. The fact that Vann lived to tell
it is an achievement in itself."
author of On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, & 9/11: A Story of Loss & Renewal
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Mile Down is the first non-fiction book by award-winning American novelist, David Vann. In it, Vann narrates the events that lead to him buying a steel boat hull in Turkey with the purpose of outfitting it to use for an educational charter business. In giving up his steady job at Stanford to take on this risky venture, Vann sees parallels to his father’s life, and later wonders if he, too, will be reduced to committing suicide when things go badly. Vann’s narration is interesting from the first page, and leads the reader through several exciting climaxes. His frustration with the various tradesmen he has to rely on is palpable, and his naïveté in entrusting his project to others whilst unable to maintain adequate vigilance over it will have readers shaking their heads in disbelief. The unscrupulousness of certain tradesmen, crew, petty officials and even rescuers will leave readers gasping, yet the generosity of family, various friends, investors and even an insurance assessor are equally amazing. Van’s prose skilfully conveys the feel of each scenario, and he is occasionally the master of understatement: “…Nancy….looked worried. I guess being fifty miles from land in thousands of feet of water at night in stormy conditions being yanked through the water at nine knots by a bunch of incompetents while we had a crack in our hull somehow gave her cause for concern.” Vann illustrates in dramatic fashion how a dream combined with reliance on others and adverse weather events can quickly lead to a downfall. He turns the story of a failed venture into a gripping page-turner.
David Vann brings us along to re-live his dreams, his trials and his tribulations. I've read 'A Mile Down' twice and I'm looking forward to his next novels making it down to New Zealand! A highly recommended read for sailors and non- sailors alike.