April 29, 2016

Book Review: "Newlyweds Afloat" by Felicia Schneiderhan

(CCLaP is dedicated to reviewing as many contemporary books as possible, including self-published volumes; click here to learn how to submit your own book for possible review, although be warned that it needs to have been published within the last 18 months to be considered. For the complete list of all books reviewed here, as well as the next books scheduled to be read, click here.)

Newlyweds Afloat, by Felicia Schneiderhan

Newlyweds Afloat: Married Bliss and Mechanical Breakdowns While Living Aboard a Trawler
By Felicia Schneiderhan
Breakaway Books
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

It's no secret that I've been losing my patience a lot this year with many of the self-published and basement-press books that have been sent to us for review, which mostly has to do with the circumstances CCLaP finds itself in here in 2016; namely, for about two years now we've been in a constant state of being around 75 books behind in this endless to-be-read pile, with new titles coming in just as fast as we can read the old ones and get them checked off the list, and with the wait time between submission and printed review being a ridiculous nine months as of last Christmas, a situation so dire that we eventually decided to just stop accepting submissions altogether in 2016, which basically screws over every author who's publishing a book this year. Given, then, how much work and stress is going into getting these books reviewed and out the door these days, and given how many authors are unfairly not going to have a chance to send us their book at all because of this massive backlist, it is just so profoundly disappointing and anger-inducing to then pick up one of these books just to learn that it's some unreadably subpar piece of genre crap that should've never been sent to a professional review organization like ours in the first place, but that we must read and review because of the open promise we've had up to this year to read and review any book that any person spent the time and trouble to send us, a policy we're changing next year specifically to try to avoid these kinds of situations in the first place. (Heads up, authors -- the first change in this policy is that we're no longer going to accept any books from third-party publicists, originators of 95 percent of the crap books we receive; so if you want your book to be reviewed by us starting in 2017, make sure to send it to us directly yourself even if you've hired one of these PR firms.)

Given all this, then, it's fair to ask why we bother accepting self-published and basement-press books in the first place; and the answer is that it occasionally produces a hidden gem that would've otherwise gotten overlooked by the world at large, a fact I was happily reminded of again this week when reading through Felicia Schneiderhan's engaging and delightful memoir Newlyweds Afloat. A self-professed big-city hipster who has struggled in the past with addiction issues and sleeping around, Schneiderhan was shocked a few years ago to find herself falling in love with a religiously conservative man who literally lives full-time on his 38-foot trawler parked at the forgotten River City pier down on the city's near south side; and this witty yet thought-provoking book is her record of that burgeoning relationship, as well as a series of anecdotes about river-living and a well-researched journalistic account of the city's entire history of such subjects. Now, it helps that Schneiderhan is an MFA-holder who also writes novels and teaches literary workshops down at Columbia College; but as we all know, an MFA degree is not necessarily a guarantee of an entertaining book, and a lot of credit must be given to Schneiderhan for her efforts to make her book both erudite and easily readable, a memoir that digs underneath the surface level of the events being relayed in order to tell a deeper and more poetic story about aging, mid-life surprises, and the unexpected pleasures of living in a radically different way than what the rest of society considers "normal."

I would've never gotten a chance to read this pleasurable and strongly recommended book if we didn't have the policy about open submissions that we do; and while it's become obvious that the scope of self-publishing has so expanded in recent years that we simply must make some changes to this long-time open policy of ours, we will be doing so in a way so that deserving authors will still have a chance to send us titles like these, because I frankly like the fact that CCLaP will often be the one and only professional review organization on the planet to cover a deserving book like this, something I consider a main reason for coming by and reading our blog in the first place. It's my real pleasure to champion a tiny book like Newlyweds Afloat that has been overlooked by nearly everyone else, and it's my hope that you will pick up a copy in this same spirit.

Out of 10: 9.2

Read even more about Newlyweds Afloat: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, April 29, 2016. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Nonfiction | Reviews |