Verdict: Through author Ellen Sollinger Walker’s use of letters and ship logs, the poet paints a lyrical portrait of her fearless parents and their refusals to become couch potatoes in their fifties.
In the Frank Capra film You Can’t Take It With You (1938), Lionel Barrymore chucked a cushy Wall Street job during the Great Depression for one that he loved rather than a boringly stable one. His family, inspired by his example, was composed of likeable eccentrics: a teenage ballerina, her “good old boy” Southern husband, a mother-turned-mystery novelist and her husband who lit endless amounts of firecrackers. As such, the house became a playroom for their joyous fun with firecracker explosions rocking the house and knocking pictures off the wall, and members having to dodge the dancing daughter.
This fearless abandonment of that which was stable, albeit boring, is present in Ellen Sollinger Walker’s salute to her parents, who at the age of 50, left their jobs and their comfortable homes for a life of high adventure on the seas. Ernest Hemingway’s quote that the “sea is the last place left for freedom” is validated in Walker’s recounting of her parents sailing in their boat for ten years. Her quotation from her mother sums up the appeal of her parents’ decision:
“There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of way out at sea, with no land in any direction for thousands of miles. There’s only the sea, the wind, the stars, and God’s universe.”
Sollinger Walker’s recounting of their adventures is every bit as exciting as swashbuckling film star and fellow yacht owner Errol Flynn’s. Flynn preferred sailing and shark hunting via bow and arrow to making films; and Walker’s parents prefer the sea to the “comforts” they left behind. To the great fortune of readers, both her parents have a gift for description and philosophical statements; apparent in the “mundane” forms of letters and ship logs that Walker includes in the book.
Their daughter’s background as a poet is evident in how she weighs every word carefully in her interjections amidst the correspondence and diary entries. And the fearlessness of her parents who died happy and fulfilled in 2016 is imparted to her. Aside from being a classical pianist and mental health counselor, her hobbies are equally rugged. She hikes, bikes, camps, and travels to the exotic corners of the earth.
Readers on the verge of retirement or those who feel like they have to delay it for financial security will find Walker’s lyrical book a wake-up call to live each day as if it were their last.
~Ron Capshaw for IndieReader