Book Review: The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom

Last night I started reading Mitch Albom’s newest book called The Stranger in the Lifeboat. I finished it this morning.

I adore Mitch Albom’s knack for telling a good story. Years of journalistic writing make him an exceptional, concise, tight storyteller. His books unfold with ease, with just the right amount of wonder combined with thought-provoking content.

Read this in less than 24 hours. Couldn’t put it down.

The plot of this book is this: In a dire situation if you called out for God’s help, would you believe in Him if a human form appeared and said He was the Lord? Such is the case with a yacht that goes under at sea and only a handful of people survive on a lifeboat together. When a stranger appears and tells them he is the Lord, and that he can save them if only they all believe, the rising action begins.

As in many of Mitch Albom books, he presents us with the ultimate question: Do you believe? Is your faith strong enough to see you through a struggle, whether it’s something you can overcome or something that leads you to your next life—the afterlife? This is where Albom excels as a writer; he forces readers to contemplate their lives, and a possible afterlife.

A few years ago, my friends Chip, Elizabeth, and I had the pleasure of attending a talk that Albom gave in Towson, MD, about one of his previous books, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, which was the sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Afterwards, we had the chance to meet him. When I explained to him that I use The Five People You Meet in Heaven in my Interpersonal Communication class, Albom thanked me. He graciously signed my book and we talked for a couple of minutes about writing.

I also use his writing as an example for my students in classes I teach. His prose is succinct and definitely borrows from his work as a journalist. Journalists are taught to tell a story in a specific word count; this is part of their trade. My students must do the same in feature writing, magazine writing, and travel writing. We look at Albom’s work and then at the prose in his novels. There’s a lot to be learned from his writing style.

I’m never disappointed by Albom’s storytelling. It moves. It leaves you hanging. It keeps you guessing. Relationships are of the utmost importance in his novels. Tying people together is a talent, and he knows exactly how to keep you turning the pages. Plus, having suffered the loss of his adopted daughter, Albom knows how to address death in a way that isn’t frightening.

If you’re looking for a quick and potent read, and one that will make you question the strength of your own faith, I highly recommend The Stranger in the Lifeboat. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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