Wavewalker: Breaking Free - Book Review

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Posted 2023-05-28 by Marisa Quinn-Haisufollow
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Wavewalker: Breaking Free is a 416-page long memoir that was written by Suzanne Heywood and published by Harper Collins on 13 April 2023. Suzanne Heywood (nee Cook) is a bestselling author and civil servant who was born in Southampton, England, on 25 February 1969 to Gordon and Mary Cook. Wavewalker: Breaking Free chronicles Heywood's amazing childhood which was spent sailing around the world in a schooner called Wavewalker with her family for over a decade. Her father was an admirer of the eighteenth-century explorer and cartographer Captain Cook and proposed a plan for the family to sail around the world for 3 years and retrace Captain Cook's third and final voyage. Gordon and Mary sold the family-owned home and business, obtained sponsorship from a hotel group, purchased Wavewalker, and pulled Suzanne and her brother Jeremy from school. The children were forced to give away their pet dog, say goodbye to their friends, and leave their school and old lives behind so their father could chase a dream.

From 1976 to 1987, the family sailed round the world following Captain Cook's journey. When they first set sail, Suzanne was seven-years-old, and thought that the trip was going to be an adventure and an extended summer break from school. As a small child, she hero-worshipped her father, and wanted to be a part of his world. It didn't take long for Suzanne to start feeling frustrated with life onboard Wavewalker. Mary had promised to home-school them both, but had only brought a few math and English worksheets for them to complete. When Suzanne asked about learning other subjects like history, science or art, her mother said that they weren't going to bother teaching them any of that. The further they sailed, the more unbearable their situation became. They faced extreme heat, food supplies frequently ran low, fresh water became scarce, they ran into storms constantly, and Suzanne began to miss school and her old life back home.

In 1977, disaster struck the family when Wavewalker was almost destroyed after it got caught in a storm between Africa and Australia. Heywood's personal account of the storm that almost sunk them is the stuff of nightmares. Her writing is some of the best I've ever read. She describes how she dragged herself out of her bunk, holding her favourite teddy, and had to hold on very tight to avoid being hurled across the room each time Wavewalker plunged down another steep wave. She could hear the wind howling, the bulkheads were shuddering, and everything felt wet. Her description of what it felt like when Wavewalker climbed a wave was terrifying. She describes how she gripped the countertop rail and held on tight as the cabin tipped backward. She could feel them climbing another watery mountain.

There was a long pause as they teetered on top of the wave and then there was an explosion, chunks of decking collapsed inward, and Suzanne was hit with a wave of water that threw her against the ceiling and then back against the galley wall. She had broken her nose and fractured her skull. Gordon managed to keep Wavewalker afloat and navigate them over towards a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean called Île Amsterdam. They were greeted by a small team of French scientists who were stationed there. When a doctor told Gordon the extent of his daughter's injuries, his response disgusted me. "What if we do nothing?" he asked, while holding her hand. "She could end up with brain damage," the doctor replied. Over the next few weeks, poor little Sue was forced to undergo multiple operations on her head without anaesthetic.

Wavewalker: Breaking Free is an extremely well-written coming-of-age story about a courageous little girl who is forced to look within herself to find the strength, resilience, and determination to break free of her selfish parents and make a life for herself. My husband recommended Wavewalker: Breaking Free to me after he read an excerpt of the book featured in the Guardian . He sent me the link to the article and I was instantly hooked. Suzanne Heywood is a fantastic writer. Wavewalker: Breaking Free is one of the best memoirs I have ever read. It reminded me a lot of Jennette McCurdy's memoir I'm Glad My Mom Died.

There were so many moments in this book where my heart just broke for Suzanne. Her story was so bleak at times it reminded me of Roald Dahl's Matilda. I found her parents to be selfish and emotionally abusive. They didn't understand her at all and reacted with anger and frustration when she began to assert her independence and fight for an education. When Suzanne was finally able to break free of them and return to England, I was so happy for her. After years of being trapped in her father's dream, she was finally free to pursue her own.

82711 - 2023-06-11 06:33:45


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