THE OBSESSION: TRAGEDY IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC by John Chipman (Viking Canada), 243 pages,$32 cloth. Rating: NNNN
You have to cheer for a guy who chases his dream the way Thomas Evensen did.
Four years ago, he set out to become the hero of his own Viking saga. But this epic ended in death, in cold crashing ocean waves a few dozen miles off the coast of Iceland.
Evensen was a middle-aged Toronto tradesman raised on the Viking tales passed down to him by his father, who learned them from his father, and so on.
In 1967, young Thomas and his father began saving dimes and quarters, the last year they were made of silver, to buy a boat to one day sail back to their ancestral home in Norway, retracing the passage of the Viking ships.
In The Obsession, CBC journalist John Chipman tells this fascinating and tragic story. The book unfolds in non-linear fashion, a mixture of Viking history and recent events, with creative use of past and present tenses to bring the story to life.
When Evensen announced he was planning to sail from Toronto to Newfoundland and then to Iceland and Norway, most people thought he was crazy. He was no sailor, and his boat, the Silver, was a creaky vessel that had a bad habit of sinking.
Yet Evensen was determined, and in August 2004 he and his four-man crew pulled anchor and headed out to sea. Along the way, the Silver began to falter.
By the time they left the ancient Newfoundland Viking village of L’Anse aux Meadows for Iceland, only Evensen and his nephew KC remained on board.
Chipman keeps the reader concerned about the fate of the two novice seamen, when it would be easy to dismiss them as reckless buffoons.