Crosswinds (Dallas: The Next Chapter Publishing, 2014)

Here’s an idea for a book. The setting is a smoke-filled bar in an airport in North Carolina. Shut down by a raging storm, the airport has become a temporary prison for travelers waiting to catch a flight out. A chance encounter in the crowded bar brings together a crusty old sailor and a young seadog straight out of boot camp and headed to his first assignment at sea. The two strike up a conversation, and a friendship is born. The entire book will be a detailed account of the conversation between these two sailors over the next eighteen hours as they pass the time waiting for the storm to subside.

So, be honest. What’s your reaction to that book idea? Boring? Ridiculous? There’s no way that storyline would ever work? Truth is, most writers could never pull it off. Truth is, Neal White is not most writers. He is a master craftsman in the art of storytelling. And the idea I just presented is exactly what his book Crosswinds is all about.

White stitches together the nine-chapter conversation between old Jack and young Bobby with the skilled precision of a Swiss watchmaker. Story after story is woven together from the two men’s lives, keeping the reader turning pages with eager anticipation to see what unfolds next.

“There are times when being blown off course is a good thing.” “Jack knew there was a reason a crosswind had unexpectedly blown the sailor into his path. It wasn’t until several hours later that Jack realized the exact purpose of their chance encounter.” Those teasers from the book’s front and back covers give us a peak at the big concept behind the book.

Sometimes life blows us off of the path we had planned to take, and onto an entirely different path. When such a “crosswind” occurs, we can complain about life being unfair, or we can embrace the opportunity to pursue a new adventure.

I was enthralled and mesmerized as I read Crosswinds. I read it late into the night, and then picked it up again as soon as I could the next day. With each story told by one of the two sailors, another piece of the puzzle falls into place and the big picture of what it all means becomes a little clearer.

There were moments in the book that made me laugh. There were moments that made me cry. There were moments of self-reflection. There were moments that made me uncomfortable.

I found myself arguing with Jack over some of his presumptions, then later wondering if I had judged him too quickly or too harshly. There are a few story twists that had me slapping my forehead and thinking, “Wow! I didn’t see that coming!” And there are plenty of important life lessons that naturally emerge from the individual stories told by Jack and Bobby, and from the overall story of the book.

One word of caution. Crosswinds is a conversation between two sailors. The cliché, “He cusses like a sailor,” has its roots in reality. Neal warned me before I read the book that it had some strong language. He wrote it that way intentionally to keep it authentic. “When a group of sailors gets together,” he said, “even if they don’t cuss in everyday conversation, they have a tendency to cuss when they are around each other. I’m not saying it’s right, but it is reality.”

That very attention to detail and authenticity is part of what makes White such a magnificent writer. The military references in his book are described using accurate military terminology. The places mentioned are all places to which White has been personally, allowing him to describe them with pinpoint accuracy.

Getting the details right is no easy task for a writer. It is hard work and can be very time-consuming. But it makes a huge difference in the quality of the finished work. I have great admiration and respect for any writer who is willing to do the work and spend the time necessary to get the details right.

Crosswinds sets the stage for the two remaining books in the series. It is a great read, and I highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection:

  • I have not received any compensation for writing this review.
  • Neal White gave me the copy of Crosswinds that I read prior to writing this review, but I would have written the same review even if I had purchased the book. In fact, I liked the book so much that I bought three extra copies to give as gifts.
  • Also, Neal mentioned my daughter in the Acknowledgements: “Ashley O’Rear — You were a brilliant light that only burned for a short while. But during that time, you changed the world.” The book would have been just as much a masterpiece even without that acknowledgement. Neal and Ashley had a wonderful friendship, and I am deeply moved by Neal’s inclusion of her in the Acknowledgements.
  • So, there you have it. Neal is my friend. He gave me a copy of his book. And he mentioned my daughter in his book. But none of that really changes the bottom line: I liked the book, and I think you will too.
  • Some of the links in the post above (and below) are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.
  • I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Silly, I know, but it’s the law.

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