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The Unsinkable Greta James Summary and Reviews

The Unsinkable Greta James

A Novel

by Jennifer E. Smith

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith X
The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith
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Book Summary

An indie musician reeling from tragedy and a public breakdown reconnects with her father on a weeklong cruise in "a pitch-perfect story about the ways we recover love in the strangest places" (Rebecca Serle, bestselling author of In Five Years)

Right after the sudden death of her mother—her first and most devoted fan—and just before the launch of her high-stakes sophomore album, Greta James falls apart on stage. The footage quickly goes viral and she stops playing, her career suddenly in jeopardy—the kind of jeopardy her father, Conrad, has always predicted; the kind he warned her about when he urged her to make more practical choices with her life.

Months later, Greta—still heartbroken and very much adrift—reluctantly agrees to accompany Conrad on the Alaskan cruise her parents had booked to celebrate their fortieth anniversary. It could be their last chance to heal old wounds in the wake of shared loss. But the trip will also prove to be a voyage of discovery for them both, and for Ben Wilder, a charming historian, onboard to lecture about The Call of the Wild, who is struggling with a major upheaval in his own life. As Greta works to build back her confidence and Ben confronts an uncertain future, they find themselves drawn to and relying on each other.

It's here in this unlikeliest of places—at sea, far from the packed city venues where she usually plays and surrounded by the stunning scenery of Alaska—Greta will finally confront the choices she's made, the heartbreak she's suffered, and the family hurts that run deep. In the end, she'll have to decide what her path forward might look like—and how to find her voice again.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The power of the Alaskan scenery breathes through the pages, and Greta's grief about her mother's death is palpable...Readers of Evvie Drake Starts Over will enjoy this book. A well-told story with evocative prose that bares—and bears—the ragged emotions that accompany a journey to healing." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"YA author Smith enters the adult field with this uplifting novel...Readers of Debbie Macomber and Robyn Carr will love how unsinkable Greta proves to be." - Library Journal (starred review)

"Smith delivers a story of love and grief with her satisfactory adult debut...Smith does a great job with her characters, particularly Greta, eliciting her charms and flaws in equal measure. There's not a whole lot to write home about with this, but it gets the job done." - Publishers Weekly

"Beautiful, moving, hopeful: I loved this book from beginning to end, and will be thinking about it for a long time. It's a total triumph." - Emily Stone, author of Always, In December

"These characters are drawn with a generosity that allows them to be wrong but also right, loving but also prone to missteps, and ultimately deserving of a resolution that's full of hope. And while The Unsinkable Greta James is not your typical adventure on the high seas, it's a cruise-ship story with a vibrant sense of its unusual setting." - Linda Holmes, New York Times bestselling author of Evvie Drake Starts Over

"Warm, funny, and bursting with heart, [it's] exactly the book you want to read: a pitch-perfect story about the ways we recover love in the strangest of places." - Rebecca Serle, New York Times bestselling author of In Five Years

This information about The Unsinkable Greta James was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Cloggie Downunder

funny, moving, heart-warming and uplifting.
The Unsinkable Greta James is a novel by best-selling American author, Jennifer E. Smith. It is literally the last place Greta James wants to be: on a cruise ship off the coast of Alaska. Her mother had planned the week-long cruise as a celebration of forty years of marriage. But three months earlier, an aneurysm had put Helen James into an early grave. Now here she is with her father and two other couples of his vintage: Helen and Conrad’s best friends over the last several decades, having the vacation Helen can’t.

Losing her mother plunged Greta into such deep grief that she had a meltdown on stage during her last live show, a week after Helen died. A meltdown that went viral. Despite pressure from the label, her manager and her publicist, Greta has withdrawn from public life since then. She knows if her career as an indie singer/songwriter/guitarist is to survive, she needs to come back controlled and confident, with a new song. A song that’s not coming…

On top of all that, she’s broken up with her boyfriend and just learned the man who’s been her fallback most of her life has gotten engaged.

So she’s on a ship full of mostly oldies who haven’t a clue about her, which is OK. The two other couples provide a buffer between her and Conrad, necessary because, although she’s here to keep an eye on him (at her brother’s insistence), they haven’t seen eye to eye since she entered her teens. Her mother may have been her greatest fan, but her father still thinks she should, at age thirty-six, have quit travelling, got a real job, and settled into a steady relationship, like her brother.

While she can relax in relative anonymity, an enthusiastic young teen of south Asian descent is thrilled to meet her idol, and Greta recalls her own teenaged obsession with making music. And among the activities to which she does accompany Conrad and his friends, a talk by Ben Wilder, a history professor at Columbia with a best-selling novel: an enigmatic figure who piques Greta’s interest. Somehow they connect, and see unexpected parallels in their lives.

It’s when she’s agreed to spend a whole day excursion with her father, meticulously pre-arranged by her mother, that things with Conrad come to a head. Can they salvage something from their decades-long estrangement?

In this novel, Smith offers a well-rounded protagonist and an appealing support cast, most of whom endear themselves to the reader despite, or perhaps because of, their very human flaws and foibles. Her portrayal of the various relationships is convincing and certain turns of the plot are likely to have the eyes filling with tears and a lump forming in the throat, although there is also plenty of humour, especially in the witty dialogue.

Smith’s depiction of the cruise, the activities and excursions, and life aboard a cruise ship perfectly captures the atmosphere and she so skilfully sets the scene of Greta’s performances, readers will wish they could be there. A tale that examines family dynamics and throws in a little romance, this one is funny, moving, heart-warming and uplifting.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Quercus Books

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Author Information

Jennifer E. Smith

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of nine books for young adults, including The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, both of which have been adapted for film. She earned a master's degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and her work has been translated into thirty-three languages. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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