The Kinsman by Gardner McKay
In this beautifully written novel, author Gardner McKay uses a most unlikely idea to bring together a country divided. Charlie “Jib” Rutlidge has recently flunked out of Yale and is wandering the world in search of meaning. While visiting Rwanda he sees first-hand the horror of the genocide that took place there. Jib soon realizes his calling is to rebuild and reunite Rwanda, though he doesn’t yet know how. Then one night he dreams of boats sailing on Lake Kivu and he knows instantly he has to help Rwanda win the America’s Cup. What follows is a story of redemption, of bringing together two peoples who have hated one another for hundreds of years, all with the help of sailing.
One of the greatest strengths of this novel is how the author can put forth something unlikely and make it seem completely natural. Revitalizing Rwanda single handedly with sailing is not an idea many people have, but in this story it seems the only rational choice for Jib. This believability carries through to all aspects of the novel. The characters are vibrant and deep, instantly feeling like friends and family. One can almost imagine having a conversation with Jib’s Aunt Pearl over drinks in Manhattan. The only weakness of this novel is the density of the sailing language. Not many casual readers will know terms like sewerman, tactician, or twelve-meters. Use of this language lends credibility to the story, but also interrupt the flow of otherwise lyrical prose. This minor issue aside, The Kinsman is a fantastic novel and should be enjoyed by sailing aficionados, history buffs, and anyone in search of a compelling read.
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