Mary South's book The Cure for Anything Is Salt Water: How I Threw My Life Overboard and Found Happiness at Sea, is the author's response to any single, successful, midcareer woman who finds herself asking: Isn't there more to life? A successful book editor (responsible for the bestseller The South Beach Diet), South decides, at the age of 40, to trade in the comforts of her life. She quits her job, sells her beloved home and leaves rural Pennsylvania for Florida, where she enrolls in seamanship school to learn how to navigate the 40-foot, 30-ton steel trawler she will call home until further notice. South never describes her decision as a midlife crisis but it's clear that her trawler, Bossanova, is the shiny red sports car a man might buy on his 40th birthday.
South shares wonderful details of the ripple effects of her life-changing choice, including her humiliation over failing her seamanship midterm (and her determination to subsequently pass it) and her joy as she and her first mate John (a seamanship school buddy who is her polar opposite in every possible way) attempt to navigate Bossanova along the Atlantic coast from Florida to Sag Harbor, New York. During one rough sea encounter she is anxious for her two Jack Russell terriers who aren't wearing life vests, though she and John are not wearing them either. South also writes about a love affair with Lars, a boat captain, which she says was unexpected given that she had lived as a lesbian for the last 20 years.
South's book is a terrific, breezy, entertaining read. It's easy to understand why she was such a successful editor she brings those same skills to her writing as she subtly compares her time on the water as a metaphor for navigating life's challenges as we age and the choices we make to survive, thrive and flourish. The Cure for Anything Is Salt Water is in some ways similar to Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun: Both authors, at crossroads in their lives, stepped outside their comfort zones, took chances and became happier and more complete for that road or, in the case of South, waterway taken.
Alas, Susan Rucci suffers from seasickness; her cure for her own midlife crisis will have to be found on land.