In January, 1958, a renowned sailing family was lost in a storm in the Bermuda Triangle. The youngest of two daughters, Sarah, suddenly an orphan, grew up never knowing her parents and grandparents. As an adult, she began to pursue the mystery of her family and their disappearance, and discovered that their stories were far different from the versions she was told. Sarah Conover's memoir follows the national media's investigation of the Revonoc's vanishing, and exposes the truths that led her to "unstory" the family history, creating a new understanding of their lives, and hers.
Set Adrift weaves Conover's superbly written memoir with interviews, magazine articles, and official Coast Guard reports to chart her fascinating life story. While still infants, she and her sister were the subjects of a custody battle between their grandmother, Mere, and their eventual adoptive parents, Fran and Dick, whose lives, and those of their lost parents and grandparents, were shrouded in myths born of the fight for the girls' affections. Later, Sarah created her own life, and through her personal growth was able to explore the lives of her ancestors, ultimately realizing the truth about both them, and those who remained. Set Adrift begins as a story about loss and loneliness, but blossoms into one of love and belonging.
Sarah Conover holds a BA in comparative religions from the University of Colorado, and an MFA in creative writing from Eastern Washington University. She has worked as a television producer for PBS and Internews (an international media NGO), a social worker, a public school teacher, and taught creative writing through the community colleges of Spokane, WA. She is the author of six books on world wisdom traditions and spirituality published by Skinner House Books. Her poetry, essays and interviews have been published in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies. She is a feature writer and columnist for Tricycle Magazine: the Buddhist Review and has taught meditation for many years at Airway Heights Corrections Center and within the Spokane community. Ms. Conover lives in Spokane, WA and in her beloved yurtiverse at the base of the North Cascades in Winthrop, WA, where she and her husband are building a small hermitage for monastic retreats.
"What a journey through the deep mysteries of family, loss, love, and redemption! True to her inheritance, Conover pilots us through her lived experience with the intimate skill and authority of a seasoned sailor, even as she explores the terra incognita of unimaginable grief, confusion, and denial. Beautifully written, imbued with grace, and defined by hope and forgiveness, Set Adrift rocked me, wrecked me, and, finally, brought me home to safe harbor." - Kim Barnes, Pulitzer finalist, author of In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country
"Sarah Conover's Set Adrift is a most captivating memoir. Written in brief, brilliant chapters, this gripping story unfolds elegantly. Though the book begins with a shocking maritime disaster, and returns with perfect pacing to the mystery itself, it's a compassionate study in reclamation of facts, identities and relationships, extending for a lifetime. It's a seeker's journey through complexity, rich with family voices, scenes, devotions, and fresh reckonings. You'll feel your own life and difficulties fall into relief as you read. I love this book with all my heart." - Naomi Shihab Nye, Young People’s Poet Laureate (Poetry Foundation)
"Raised by a family who imagined grief could be tamed the way (they trusted) their racing yachts would tame dangerous ocean currents, Sarah Conover shows resilience and courage as she pieces together the fragments of her broken life, undertaking a wide-ranging journey to discover what 'home' might mean to the orphaned; what a restless spirit might indicate; and how deeply damaging entrenched family mythology can be. 'This is not a memoir,' Conover writes, 'this is the unwriting of fictions.' A triumph, exquisitely written and observed." - Leslie Pietrzyk, author of Admit This to No One
"Sarah Conover's fearless path into the heart of the abyss and back again is uniquely transcendent. Who can fathom the depths of loss that consume us and make each human endeavor somehow akin to the infinite? Set Adrift speaks to the gravest losses with such familiarity, grace, intelligence, and hope, no page fails to leave an imprint of the ineffable. Read this book to revel in the human story, but remember Sarah's final affirmation, in resonance with the heart of each individual, family, and community: 'There is no true story. Only mercy.' " - Shann Ray, American Book Award winner, author of American Masculine and Atomic Theory 7
"Not Set Adrift but swept away by Sarah Conover's spellbinding memoir that charts the rending of a family forever haunted by the disappearance of the Revonoc, the yacht carrying the writer's parents into the Bermuda Triangle's Sargasso Sea, the only sea in the world without a coast. And so too the daughter's terrestrial journey that takes her across the United States, has an element of open water and begs the timeless question of what family is, mother/father or other. In meticulous prose, Set Adrift speaks to our age of blended families and its Solomon-like custodial battles. The world is upside down, because just that fast, she partitions our world further. Conover's storytelling is so compelling that once I finished reading its pages, I read it again. I predict an enthusiastic and enduring audience for this wise book." - Stephanie Dickinson, author of Girl Behind the Door
"If hope is the thing with feathers, as Emily Dickinson wrote, it is also the thing that sails on high seas. In the able hands of Sarah Conover, readers will sail away on a formidable January storm that took her elders, then back again to terra firm to salvage hope a family can heal from such a loss. This story of journeys, both geographical and emotional, will prove cleansing for anyone who has suffered from family dysfunction or tragedy. Number me among Sarah Conover's fans." - Paul Lindholdt, recipient of a Washington State Book Award for In Earshot of Water and author of Interrogating Travel