The Silver Boat: A Novel

The Silver Boat: A Novel

by Luanne Rice


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143121039
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/29/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 263,165
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Luanne Rice is the author of thirty-one novels, twenty-two of which have been New York Times bestsellers. Her recent novels include The Lemon Orchard, Little Night, and The Silver Boat. A native of Connecticut, she currently resides in New York City.

Date of Birth:

September 25, 1955

Place of Birth:

New Britain, CT

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher


“Will strike a chord in every mother, daughter, or sister.”
Marie Claire

“Popular Rice, in her mellifluous style, captures the essence of family and sisterhood as each character deals with love and loss.”

“Rice’s writing effortlessly conveys the way family can bind as well as buoy us, reminding us that when the sea of life gets too choppy, by setting our prows toward the places that made us, we will find a safe harbor. Another winner from one of America’s most beloved authors.”

“Rice enriches familiar themes of family, failure, redemption, and romance with a watercolor-lovely portrait of Martha's Vineyard and sketches of the tug-of-war between sea and sand, rich and poor, development and preservation characteristic of the island.”
Publishers Weekly

“Compelling . . . a satisfying and worthwhile ride.”
Library Journal

Reading Group Guide

Ever since she was a girl, Dar McCarthy's favorite constellation has been "the Pleiades, sisters clustered together" (p. 35). Now, decades later, closeness with her younger sisters, Rory and Delia, continues to define her—almost as much as the loss of their father, who abandoned them when Dar was just twelve years old. So when their mother dies and the three sisters can no longer afford to keep the family home on Martha's Vineyard, they gather for a final visit to clean out a house filled with memories. Each is grappling with a private grief until a bundle of old letters hints at a different ending to the tragedy that has marked all their lives.

"Back when they'd been kids… every boy on the Vineyard had wanted Rory" (p. 25), but it was Jonathan Chase—the scion of another eminent Vineyard clan—who won her. After a rocky start, they settled down and began to raise a family. But Rory is still reeling from her mother's recent death when she discovers that her marriage is not as solid as she'd imagined.

Delia, the youngest, put down roots furthest from the Vineyard. "Jim, Delia's husband… considered it too snobby" (p. 13) and usually skipped the family get-togethers to stay at home in Annapolis. So Delia would come with their only son, Pete, who grew to love the ocean and its wild beauty—until he fled a paternity suit two years ago. Delia's been nursing her heartache ever since.

Unlike her sisters, Dar has always been a loner. She returned after art school to live in a cottage on the perimeter of Daggett's Way, the main estate. There, Dar cared for their aging mother, Tilly, and created a successful series of graphic novels featuring Dulse, a water spirit with two sisters. She also drank until she hit bottom, and was saved only by AA and the fear of losing her muse.

In the midst of their packing and memories, Dar unearths some letters from Michael McCarthy, their father, to their mother. Michael was a penniless black-Irishman who came to the Vineyard in search of land he believed to be rightfully his. He fell in love with Tilly, but her mother, Abigail, accused him of being after the family property. She continued to scorn him even after the girls were born.

For a time they lived on Abigail's largesse and Michael's scant wages. Then, he built the Irish Darling and sailed the boat solo to Ireland. He wrote: "I won't come back home until after I retrieve what I'm owed" (p. 89). He sent word of his arrival, but never returned. Inspired by his letters, the three sisters embark on an Irish adventure that will transform both their past and their future.


Luanne Rice is the author of twenty-nine novels. She lives in New York City and Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Q. You made your writing debut in 1985 with Angels All over Town. The Silver Boat is your twenty-ninth novel. How—if at all—has your writing process changed over time? Have the Internet and other technological advances affected your writing experience?

In many ways my process has changed very little. My novels always begin with a character. I wait for her to tell me who she is; often she inhabits my dreams. Once I know her name, I'm ready to start writing. Although I now work on a MacBookPro 15, I still like to write the earliest scenes on a yellow legal pad with a fountain pen. The Internet makes research go faster, but something is lost. It's too easy to search for information, take what I need, and move on. I prefer to do research from books, getting lost in the background and immersed in the realm of whatever I'm trying to learn.

Q. The importance of family is a recurring theme in your novels. How did your own upbringing influence your decision to become a writer?

My family was loving but complicated. Our house was filled with secrets and bass notes. As a child I was a detective, listening at walls and going through drawers, looking for answers to what was wrong. My writing has been my lifelong solution to figuring things out, finding the love I know was there, learning everything I can about the way families work, ways of loving and trying to be happy.

Q. "Was that the inspiration for Dulse's latest adventure? Dar wasn't sure. She only knew that her ideas came from deep down, experiences and emotions of her own" (p. 282). Part of what makes your novels so heartfelt is that each of them comes from a deeply personal place. What was your inspiration for The Silver Boat?

The answer has three parts:

a) Like the McCarthy sisters, my sisters and I had to face what to do with our beloved family beach cottage after our mother died. It was an immense challenge. The house contained so many ghosts and memories. My grandparents had built it; no other family had ever occupied it. It sits on a granite hill, and the top step still has three pennies placed there by my grandfather in 1938, the year it was built. We put it on the market for ten seconds—selling felt unthinkable. My sisters were very generous and let me buy them out. I still want it to be the family house.

b) My father had a way of disappearing. Not forever, like Michael McCarthy, but frequently, and without explanation. I've been writing my way into that situation my whole life.

c) The silver boat actually exists.

Q. Harrison is such a glorious character. Is he based on someone you've known?

Yes, but like the character, he would want to remain a mystery.

Q. In your blog, you have a section called "Advice to Young Writers." What is the one bit of advice that you consider most important to a writer just starting out?

Write every day; don't worry what your parents, true love, or teacher will think; go to the library, find the shelf where your book would be, and imagine it right there.

Q. In an alternate universe, is Luanne Rice still a novelist, or is there a "road untaken" that the other Luanne has followed?

One of the best parts of being a writer is that I get to take all those roads; for months on end I've lived the lives of an oceanographer, gardener, sculptor, anthropologist, veterinarian, actor, beachcomber, researcher at the Louvre, and many more.

Q. Poetry always has a prominent supporting role in your novels. Who are your favorite poets, and why?

W. B. Yeats for the language, beauty, mysticism; Eavan Boland for her strength and evocation of Dublin; Mary Oliver for her connection to nature and the sea; Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser for their friendship; my sister Maureen Rice Onorato because her work is tender and powerful.

Q. Dulse is another name for a type of seaweed also called "Irish moss." Why did you give her this name?

Dulse's element is water. She is a fluid character, flowing in and out of fantasy and dreams. She leads Dar deep into her own subconscious, allowing her to bring forth things buried inside, answers she didn't know she had.

I chose the name because it's beautiful to say. Also in honor of the seaweed that fills tidal pools, hides sea creatures, smells like life and death, and because I love its Latin name, Chondrus crispus.

Also because the short story "Dulse," by Alice Munro, affected me greatly when I first read it in The New Yorker.

Q. You describe Dulse and her world so vividly that the reader can really picture the pages. Is there a graphic artist whose work inspired Dar's?

My niece Amelia Onorato inspired me and helped me research the character. She is a writer and an artist, getting her master's degree in cartoon studies, working on her first graphic novel.

Q. Have you found the seed of your next novel yet? If so, could you share a bit of the story?

It starts with a crime, continues with an unexpected visitor, threads of estrangement, lost love, and the kind of deep love a person can have for someone she's never even met.

  • Which boat is the one referred to in the title? How does it drive the events of the novel?
  • Discuss the ways in which their father's abandonment played out in the lives of each of the three sisters. What does the trip to Ireland represent for each of them?
  • Michael McCarthy loved his daughters, yet he felt compelled to leave them to find and claim his rightful legacy. Do you believe a mother would have left her children under the same circumstances? Do most men today still feel they need to be their families' main provider?
  • Dar's and Pete's respective experiences with alcoholism and drug addiction wreak damage beyond their individual lives. How does a history of substance abuse affect a family?
  • Would Dar have been an artist and writer if her father had not abandoned them? Is suffering an inherent part of the creative process?
  • Why did it mean so much to Cathleen McCarthy to meet Dar and her sisters? How does that affect them? Does the fact that their father had an affair with Cathleen diminish your opinion of him? Why or why not?
  • "Hence Bluepool's waving groves delight/Amuse the fancy, please the sight/And give such joy as may arise/From sylvan scenes and azure skies/The weary here in safe repose/Forgetting life's attendant woes/May sit secure, serene and still/And view with joy yon famed hill" (pp. 161 – 164). How does this poem—partially quoted by Cathleen and engraved on the Dalua Bridge—tie into the novel?
  • "'No, it's not that,' she said quickly. But he saw her look around. He felt how ashamed she was of all this, and was ready to drop it, just drive her home" (p. 222). Was Pete correctly interpreting Delia's feelings about going with him to the AA meeting? Why is it important to him that she be there?
  • "'Dear R & D, I know it's beside the point, but we now have an offer from the Rileys. I took the liberty of burning it'" (p. 248). Of the three sisters, only Dar wants to keep Daggett's Way. Rory and Delia see it as a beloved white elephant and imagine how helpful the money from its sale could be for their families. Might Dar feel differently if she had children of her own? If you are a parent, did your priorities change once your child was born? How?
  • What role does Harrison play in the novel? Why does he choose to live "off the grid" in Martha's Vineyard over a more conventional life elsewhere?
  • Ultimately, the sisters decide to sell Daggett's Way, but donate the even more valuable land grant. Why?
  • Customer Reviews

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    The Silver Boat 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 86 reviews.
    Jennifer_R More than 1 year ago
    I just finished reading this book and liked it a lot. The story is sad at times but it's also warm and reflects the different personalities and motives of three sisters who are very different but share a common bond beyond the norm. I have two sisters and I will be sharing this book with them.
    Hyacinthe More than 1 year ago
    I 've read and/or own all of Luanne Rice's books because I love the characters she creates. But, this book was disappointing. The character were too familiar. As I was reading, i realized rhat i had met rhesr people before. Oh, they had other names and lived in other rowns or states, but they were srill recognizable. The beloved rich or eccentric grandmother, the friends or sisters who had idylic childhoods at the beach, I'd mer them all before. I've loved rhem until this book, in which I felt they overstayed rheir welcome.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Seems like her other novel, Sandcastles....
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    A nice story. Enjoyed reading the book, but definitely not a page-turner nor great for book club discussion.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    The book read like an outline for a chick flick movie. The characters were boring, and the plot was predictable. The ending was telegraphed from the first few chapters. No depth of character, and the writing seemed as if it came from a star pupil in a high school senior lit class, with a kid's view of romance and living happily forever after. The continued interruptions from the cartoon character created by one of the sisters was totally unnecessary and really dragged down the pace. None of the main characters were interesting, or fully developed; certainly the minor characters weren't.
    ILgirl07 More than 1 year ago
    Luanne Rice at her best - telling stories about families, heartbreak, trust, and believing in yourself. Good family drama. Recommended for fans of Rice's writing.
    njmom3 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    This book was disappointing. A light and very quick read. I appreciated some of the family elements of the story especially how family relationships and memories can be associated with a particular place. And Martha's Vineyard is a beautiful setting. However, much of the story line was far fetched and somewhat disjointed. It is a story of three sisters, but really focuses on just one. Another story line is that of a nephew who is recovering addict. It really did not add anything to the book. Another character is an eccentric old friend who is living in a storage unit. There if friendship and an unexplored romance there, but again left unresolved and disjointed. Disappointing overall.
    whitreidtan on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    When you see white shells on a book cover, it is generally a pretty good indication that the book itself is a beach read. That is very definitely the case with Luanne Rice's latest, The Silver Boat. Dar and her sisters are having to say goodbye to their family home on Martha's Vineyard after the long illness and eventual death of their mother. Dar is the only one remaining on the island, her sisters having built their lives and families elsewhere so she is perhaps the most affected by the hard decision to sell the family's house and land. As time winds down for the McCarthy daughters and the memories they have rooted in this home, Dar finds letters from her father to her mother. He had always maintained that his family had a royal land grant on the island and so he left to sail to Ireland in search of proof of his claim. Michael was always assumed lost at sea but something in the letters makes Dar believe that he could possibly have made it to Ireland and found the proof about which existence he was so adamant and so she heads off to investigate for herself. While Dar takes the majority of the focus here, there is a veritable crush of other characters as well, all of whom seem to be suffering in some way. Both Delia and Rory, the other two sisters, are facing family dysfunction of grand proportions and Dar is a rather prickly, curmudgeonly, recovering alcoholic. Their friends on Martha's Vineyard are not terribly well-fleshed out and are unremittingly eccentric. Family drama this has in spades but it has too much going on and too little focus on the primary storyline to be terribly effective. It does, however, fulfill the promise of the cover: a superficially entertaining beach read albeit one that will stay in memory for a shorter time than the sand will stay in your beach bag.
    EvelynBernard on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    I made a number of attempts to read this book after receiving it from the Early Reviewers Group several months ago. Finally, I accomplished this task - I think I know why. There has been a heat wave and this is a "beach book".The book centres around Dar McCarthy who has lived her entire life in the family home on Martha's Vineyard. Her financial situation demands that she and her sisters sell the family home - their mother had suffered from a lengthy illness and their financial resources were tapped out caring for their mother in her final days. There are 2 sisters, a boy friend, a close family friend, some nieces and nephews. What can I tell you about these people? Almost nothing. Very little time is devoted to developing characters that I could care about. Pack this book in your hamper the next time you are at the beach or leave it beside the chair on your deck. It is a light, fairly readable book that is ideal for summer weather. However, if I were to leave it behind, I probably would not bother to go back for it.
    jessstewart on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    I received this book as part of the early reviewers group. I had never read Luanne Rice before and I found this book to be good but not great. I did like the characters and the relationships between the sisters but I found that there wasn't a big hook to get me excited and want to keep reading. It did seem like there were many characters involved but I think fewer characters with more depth and detail about them would have been better. It was a nice story and I will try to read some more of Luanne Rice.
    Marlyn on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    The McCarthy girls, Dar, Delia and Rory, spent their summers at their mother's beach house on Martha's Vineyard. The house and property had been passed down through the family for generations, though Dar was the only one who still lived there. But their mother had died after a lengthy illness, and the money that should have gone for the house's upkeep and taxes had gone to her care. The three sisters had resigned themselves to selling the house, and were meeting pack up the furnishings in preparation. Dar still mourned her father, who had sailed to Ireland when she was twelve, searching for Something and promising to return when he found it. Though her sisters believed he had died, Dar nursed a hope that he was still alive. While clearing the house, Dar finds some letters from her father to her mother, which convinces her that he had indeed found what he was looking for, and that she and her sisters must visit his birthplace. For a tale about families and their roots and ancestral birthrights, this is a fairly compact volume at less than 300 pages. Publishers are tending not to publish the weighty tomes they did 10 or 15 years ago, but there's something about this book that feels like there should be more. But what is here is enjoyable. Rice has created characters that the reader really cares and wants to know more about, particularly Dar.
    LynnB on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    This is the story of three sisters who are dealing with the sale of the family home following the death of their mother. Each of the sister is struggling with relationship issues, and memories of their father who sailed away when they were young.This is a light read and a fair bit of angst without a lot of depth of character development. The plot was somewhat implausible with the sisters finding answers about their father and his quest rather easily and most of the loose ends wrapped up by the end of the story.A quick, not unenjoyable story, but nothing that will stay with me or prompt me to read more by the same author.
    Sparkle64 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    This book takes place in Martha's Vineyard and is mainly about three sisters who come home to the family beach house to sell it and deal with their personal issues.At first this book was a little difficult to get into. It became more engaging however, when they decided to travel to Ireland to trace family roots.The characters of this book are believable enough even though I felt that they could have been more developed. For those of you that enjoy "Nicholas Sparks", I think you will find this book is in the same vein as his writing style.
    VivienneR on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    After the death of their mother, three sisters get together to pack up the family beach house on Martha's Vineyard prior to finalizing its sale. They puzzle over why their father sailed away across the Atlantic on a mysterious journey to Ireland, never to return. When some letters are discovered they decide to go to Ireland themselves to try and find out what happened to him.Although the story relates the anguish of parting with a cherished family home, many of the details are unrealistic and fanciful. The characters did not come alive but remained flat and uninteresting, without colour. There are many elements that are unconnected, such as how the main character creates illustrations for graphic novels, or how the characters she has created affect her thoughts and actions. Unfortunately the human complexities that Rice tried to inject into the story have only served to bog it down.
    Cecilturtle on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    Three sisters are forced to sell their family home; memories of times past come flooding back and mysteries are discovered as they pack up the house and deal with legal issues. With the themes of family, friendships, unresolved questions and escapism, this novel is ultimately about a quest to find peace with the family history and build a new dynamic.There are some strong passages: a trip to Ireland, a rediscovered "treasure", struggles with alcohol and drug, but there are also many inadequacies: a sunk boat which has been creepily kept in a hangar for 28 years, a kooky friend who lives in storage unit, strained marital relationships that don't really add to the main thread. The book lacks balance and focus, shifting from one to other sisters although clearly Dar is the main character. While the ending is tidy enough, the reader still has questions as to what's next, and after all the sisters have been through, is this a happy ending? Some of the ocean's imagery is beautiful, but there are also clichés (the storm when Dar learns the house will be sold).Overall, a book with potential, enjoyable even, if not analyzed too closely, but not one that will remain with me long.
    Neverwithoutabook on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    This was the first book I've read by Luanne Rice, and I loved it! The story involves three sisters, whose father left when they were young, and whose mother has recently died. They gather at the family home to pack everything up in preparation for selling the property. This leads them on an alternately sad and heart-warming search that re-affirms the bonds of family. If you're a Luanne Rice fan, don't miss this book, and if you're not yet a Luanne Rice fan, I'd recommend this as a great place to start! I'm now planning to read more by this great author.
    jo2son on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    A light read about three sisters and their family property on Martha's Vineyard. Property taxes have become unmanageable and they must sell. All of the sisters unresolved feelings around their father who sailed away to Ireland many years earlier and disappeared without an explanation. Much of the book focuses on the land claim supposedly given to their father's ancestors by the British Crown. I enjoyed this story but the writing felt very choppy. The scenes did not seem to flow nicely into each other. It was almost as if the author was trying to fit everything into a fairly short book. My favourite parts of the book were the beautiful descriptions of Martha's Vineyard.
    lyn21 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    I found this book a slow read at first but then it really pick up and I really enjoyed it. I think you just need to give it a chance.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Love Luanne Rice, but this one fell short. Disappointed
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    janice8299 More than 1 year ago
    This was the first Luanne Rice book I read. The plot had plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested. I've shared it with other Nook users. Looking forward to reading another book by this author.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago