Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Jaimy Gordon


This creative work, a novel, set in the late 1980s, tells the story of twenty-seven-year-old Davison Johnson (Davi), as she sails around the world in a solo race. For Davi, sailing is more than a challenge, however; it is an escape. On her previous year-long sail, she sailed away from the guilt of her non-action as her Cambodian student, Chanthavy, was abducted from a market in Siem Reap, where Davi was working as an English teacher. Now, she is sailing away from the uncomfortable reality of her older brother's slow death to AIDS. Her brother, Peter, does not disappear as easily as Chanthavy, however, and as Davi makes her ports of call, she begins receiving letters from Peter, who tells a story that Davi should already know, the story of a summer they spent as children at their grandparents' house on Walloon Lake. For Peter, the story is of his sexual awakening, his own abduction, and his ultimate transcendence of this tragedy. Dying, Peter is relating the story of how he came to life, of the painful events through which he gained self awareness. For Davi, however, Peter's story carries with it an accusation, as she struggles with a drifting existence, having never undergone this process of self discovery.

Although the novel is not a pure sailing adventure, it does use textual elements of this genre, and at times borrows heavily from the tradition--from the philosophy of French sailor and author, Bernard Moitessier, to the high adventure styles of Joshua Slokum and Tristan Jones. At its heart, however, this is a literary novel that uses sailing and the sea as metaphor to explore the inner landscape of its characters, as they struggle with the isolation that is an inherent element in the act of self discovery.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Fiction Commons