The Stranger in the Lifeboat: A Novel

Image of The Stranger in the Lifeboat: A Novel
Release Date: 
November 2, 2021
Reviewed by: 

“. . . thought-provoking, hope-filled, and inspirational.”

Acclaimed author Mitch Albom has penned five consecutive #1 New York Times bestselling novels. His books have sold nearly 33 million copies and have been translated into 42 different languages worldwide. Known for finding spiritual meaning in everyday life with novels such The Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, and The First Phone Call from Heaven, Albom in his writings often seeks to answer the meaning between the divine state and experiences bounded by physical reality.

“It’s been three days since the Galaxy sank. No one has come looking for us. I try to stay positive . . . I see surrender in the eyes of many . . . If this is to be, if this is indeed my end . . . I need to tell you something, and I need to tell the world as well.”

Albom’s new novel, The Stranger in the Lifeboat is deeply thought provoking and asks the question: What would happen if we called on God for help and God actually appeared? An explosion on a yacht leaves ten desperate souls struggling to survive adrift in a lifeboat. Included among these are some very influential and wealthy people. Short on water, food, and hope, three days into the ordeal they spot a man floating in the waves. They pull him in, and he claims to be God. So begins Albom’s most captivating and inspirational novel to date, and for the first time in his fiction writing, he contemplates and explores what people might actually do, if after praying for divine intervention, God really appeared.

“He wore no lifejacket, nor was he holding on to anything when we spotted him bobbing in the waves . . . We waited for the stranger to respond, but he just looked at us doe-eyed . . . Nina touched his shoulder and said, ‘Well, thank the Lord we found you.’ Which is when the man spoke. ‘I am the Lord.’”

Throughout the tale, Albom as usual does a masterful job of keeping the reader engaged and speculating. Is this mysterious and serene man really who he claims to be? And what actually caused the boat to explode? Are the survivors already in heaven, or are they in hell? It is narrated by Benji, one of the passengers, who describes the events in a notebook that is discovered a year later when the empty life raft washes up ashore on the island of Montserrat. It then falls to the island’s chief detective, a man struggling with his own inner struggles, to solve the mystery of what really happened.

The story is divided into three sections with different timelines and points of view. Sea is told while the survivors are on the lifeboat; Land is told a year and a half after the yacht’s sinking; and News is told before the yacht set sail. Albom’s writing style as always is simplistic but effective. It allows the reader to look inward and reflect upon faith.

Fast-paced and compelling, The Stranger in the Lifeboat is thought-provoking, hope-filled, and inspirational. It makes you ponder your deepest spiritual beliefs, and although it does not deviate from the expected outcome, this does not detract from its overall inspirational effectiveness. Whether or not you are a spiritual person, Albom ultimately suggests that answers to our prayers may be found where we least expect them.