The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith is an emotional story with a gorgeous setting. As a big fan of the author’s YA books, I was excited for this adult debut, and the cruise ship setting and family dynamics did not disappoint. While I had some issues with the pacing at certain points, this one is still an enjoyable read with themes of healing and reigniting one’s passion.Title: The Unskinkable Greta James
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Also by this author: Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genres: Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Publication Date: March 1, 2022
An indie musician reeling from tragedy reconnects with her estranged father on a week-long cruise in this tale of grief, fame, and love from bestselling author Jennifer E. Smith.
Greta James's meteoric rise to indie stardom was hard-won. Before she graced magazine covers and sold out venues, she spent her girlhood strumming her guitar in the family garage. Her first fan was her mother, Helen, whose face shone bright in the dusty downtown bars where she got her start. But not everyone encouraged Greta to follow her dreams. While many daydream about a crowd chanting their name, her father, Conrad, sees only a precarious life ahead for his daughter.
Greta has spent her life trying to prove him wrong. But three months after Helen's sudden death, and weeks before the launch of her high-stakes sophomore album, Greta has an onstage meltdown that goes viral. Attempting to outrun the humiliation and heartbreak, she reluctantly agrees to accompany her father on a week-long Alaskan cruise, the very one that her parents had booked to celebrate their fortieth anniversary.
This could be the James family's last chance to heal old wounds, and will prove to be a voyage of discovery for them, as well as for Ben Wilder, a historian also struggling with a major upheaval in his life. Ben is on board to lecture about Jack London's The Call of the Wild, the adventure story Greta's mother adored, and he captures Greta's attention after her streak of dating hanger-ons. As Greta works to build up her confidence and heal, and Ben confronts his uncertain future, they must rely on one another to make sense of life’s difficult choices. In the end, Greta must make the most challenging decision of all: to listen to the song within her or make peace with those who love her.
❃ I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. ❃
Review: The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith
After a video of her having a breakdown during her latest show goes viral, indie musician Greta James is in need of a getaway. So, when she receives an invitation to accompany her father on a cruise through Alaska–the cruise he had planned to share with Greta’s mother before she passed away–Greta reluctantly agrees and takes this as an opportunity to try and mend their tense relationship. On board, Greta meets Ben, a Jack London expert with an uncertain future of his own, and she slowly starts to regain her confidence. However, with her future looming after the cruise, she must decide how to move forward, both with her music career and her personal life.
❀ Well-Developed Main Character
I found Greta’s character well developed, and the emotions she feels are vividly described. While she is a talented musician, her father does not approve, and the way this is balanced with Greta’s mother, who was her biggest supporter, broke my heart. Greta is left without the person she leaned on most, and her grief is conveyed really powerfully through her memories of her mother’s love. The family dynamics in this book are really well done, and I was especially touched by Greta working to mend her relationship with her father and prove herself as successful.
❀ Slow Pacing
While I enjoyed the premise of this book, I had some issues with the pacing that affected my enjoyment. The plot is slower paced than I was anticipating as the author really focuses on delving into the emotions behind every scene and building complex characters. I appreciated such a well-written read, but for me, I found that this slowness made the book drag in places while other aspects somehow feel rushed, like Greta’s relationship with Ben and the resolution with her father. However, while this one has a slow start, this is something I was mostly willing to overlook because of the rich prose and the gorgeous Alaskan landscape.
❀ An Emotional Story
The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith is an emotional story of healing. I adored the premise of a cruise through Alaska, and the main character is complex. At some points, the pacing felt a little off, but the emotional prose and scenic descriptions mostly made up for this. Those looking for something with both hard-hitting topics and moments of lightness will enjoy this one.