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The last cruise : a novel
2018
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Summary
From the acclaimed PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author of The Great Man comes a riveting high-seas adventure that combines Christensen's signature wit, irony, and humanity to create a striking and unforgettable vision of our times. <br> <br> The 1950s vintage ocean liner Queen Isabella is making her final voyage before heading to the scrapyard. For the guests on board, among them Christine Thorne, a former journalist turned Maine farmer, it's a chance to experience the bygone mid-twentieth century era of decadent luxury cruising, complete with fine dining, classic highballs, string quartets, and sophisticated jazz. Smoking is allowed but not cell phones--or children, for that matter. The Isabella sets sail from Long Beach, California into calm seas on a two-week retro cruise to Hawaii and back.<br> But this is the second decade of an uncertain new millennium, not the sunny, heedless '50s, and certain disquieting signs of strife and malfunction above and below decks intrude on the festivities. Down in the main galley, Mick Szabo, a battle-weary Hungarian executive sous-chef, watches escalating tensions among the crew. Meanwhile, Miriam Koslow, an elderly Israeli violinist with the Sabra Quartet, becomes increasingly aware of the age-related vulnerabilities of the ship herself and the cynical corners cut by the cruise ship company, Cabaret.<br> When a time of crisis begins, Christine, Mick, and Miriam find themselves facing the unknown together in an unexpected and startling test of their characters.
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  Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Food is Christensen's muse in her witty memoirs, including How to Cook a Moose (2015), and in her delectable novels, a passion brought to boil in this initially wry and ebullient, gradually catastrophic ship-of-fools tale. The Queen Isabella's final voyage to Hawaii is a tribute to its first in 1957, from its vintage decor to dressing for dinner and retro cocktails and cuisine. Christine is thrilled to have escaped the cold and hard work on her farm in Maine to join her New York friend, Valerie, a furiously professional journalist, for a lark. Other passengers include Miriam, a violinist in an ardent Israeli classical quartet whose members have played together ever since they fought in the 1967 Six-Day War. Mick, an ambitious Hungarian sous chef, is hoping for a career boost but finds himself contending with a fierce and intent staff, especially outspoken Consuelo, angered by pending layoffs. Christensen's sharply attentive, brightly articulate characters offer trenchant analysis as the scrumptious pleasures of the cruise give way to heartache and conflict, transforming this luxurious floating world into a veritable prison, adrift with little food and much illness and angst. As the shocking denouement looms, valor, ingenuity, and transcendence arise. Christensen's gripping and insightful novel dramatizes with stealth and daring the dangerous contrariness of human nature.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2018 Booklist
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