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The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea


The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea Cover



Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
With its nail-biting suspense and nonstop action, "The Perfect Storm has the makings of a superb thriller. But this story of a once-in-a-century meteorological occurrence, the lives it changed, and the lives it claimed is achingly real. Sebastian Junger's account of the fate of a group of swordfishermen battling a storm off the Newfoundland coast opens a door into the world of commercial fishing, historically among the most dangerous of occupations. Junger reveals how a finite supply of fish forces boats farther out to sea, and in increasingly hazardous conditions. He explains the unique set of circumstances that led to a storm of unpredictable strength and how even the most advanced technology cannot warn or prepare us for the whims of nature. And he shows us the sea in all its power: the gray horizon at dawn; the maelstrom of wind, water, and rain that make up a nor'easter; and the precise structure of a tidal wave the size of an office building as it curves and falls, playing havoc with any ship that dares to cross its path.

For some the life of a fisherman is a necessity; for others a necessary challenge. Junger profiles with compassion and empathy the people whose lives intersected with that incredible storm: those lucky enough to dodge it, those who fought it and won, and those who disappeared. The crew of the Andrea Gail left no message in a bottle, no clues about their final thoughts and actions. But Junger's careful piecing together of similar experiences, and his vivid depictions of a storm the likes of which had never before been witnessed, place us in the moment and in the hearts and minds of these doomed men. We know the fate of the Andrea Gail's crewbefore we turn the first page, and yet we find ourselves hoping they'll survive. Such is the power of Junger's account--and we find that fact is often more incredible, more thrilling, and more affecting than fiction.

Topics for Discussion
1. Throughout the book, Junger writes of complicated and risky rescue missions in which the danger to the victims is weighed against the danger to those charged with rescuing them. How do you make a decision to go ahead with an " increased risk" mission that also imperils the lives of the rescuers? What are the issues surrounding rescuing those who knowingly venture out into risky situations?

2. What did Junger's profile of the Gloucester fishing community teach you about the commercial aspects of this field? Do you think there should be more or fewer restrictions on commercial fishing? Is it up to the government to regulate these methods?

3. What qualities does it take to be a sword fisherman? How would you characterize such people as Bobby Shatford, Billy Tyne, and other members of the Andrea Gail crew? How many of these men embarked on this voyage by choice, as opposed to obligation? Does this distinction affect the way you feel about their fate?

4. Instead of " fictionalizing" the parts of his book about which he had no first-hand information or knowledge, Junger made use of accounts from people who had been in similar situations to those he was writing about. How effective is this " second source" material? Does it make the last moments of the Andrea Gail's crew--and others who perished in the storm--more or less real to you? Would you have preferred that Junger create imagined scenarios to fill in the gapsin his story?

5. Did knowing the fate of the Andrea Gail affect your reaction to "The Perfect Storm? Had the book been a novel, how do you think the author would have approached the story differently? Did any parts of the book seem like fiction to you?

6. Originally, Sebastian Junger wrote the account of the Andrea Gail as a chapter to be included in a book about hazardous occupations. How differently do you think people who risk their lives " on the job" approach life from those in relatively safe occupations? How does facing death change the way you face life? If you have ever been in a life-threatening situation, how did it change you, either temporarily or permanently?

7. Have the technological advances of the last century made us any more powerful against the forces of nature? Do you think we have developed a false sense of security when faced with the possibility of storms or other natural disasters such as earthquakes, avalanches, or forest fires? Do you think the crew of the Andrea Gail and other boats caught in the storm relied too much on their navigational equipment and not enough on common sense?

8. In recent years, books about real-life adventure have become bestsellers and " extreme" sports are the hottest recreational trend. How do you explain our increasing fascination with dangers of all sorts? What's happening culturally, socially, and economically in our country--and in the world--to compel us to take enormous, often death-defying risks?

About the Author:
Sebastian Junger grew up in suburban Massachusetts, not far from the town of Gloucester, the fishing port depicted in The Perfect Storm that was home to the Andrea Gail and itscrew. He graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in cultural anthropology in 1984 and has been a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in such magazines as Outside, Men's Journal, American Heritage, and The New York Times Magazine. Drawn to stories of adventure, Junger has delivered radio reports from the war in Bosnia, covered smoke jumpers in Idaho's wilderness wildfires, and written about the smallest border town in Texas. In addition he has for many years worked a high climber and trimmer for tree removal companies. He currently lives in New York City and Cape Cod. "The Perfect Storm is his first book.

For more information write to:
The Perfect Storm Foundation
P.O. Box 1941
Gloucester, MA 01931-1941
(978) 283-2903

What Our Readers Are Saying

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maxfly60, January 21, 2010 (view all comments by maxfly60)
This book is the ideal blend of technical detail and human story, it set the standard for all the rest of the "true disaster story" genre that followed it. It also humbles you to get a glimpse of the power of forces beyond man's control as well as the courage of men to confront those forces.
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Product Details

A True Story of Men Against the Sea
Junger, Sebastian
New York :
Specific Groups
New england
Natural Disasters
Oceans & Seas
Northeast storms
Swordfish fishing
Northeast storms New England.
Hurricane Grace, 1991
Specific Groups - General
Shipwrecks -- North Atlantic Ocean.
Halloween Nor'easter, 1991
Ecosystems & Habitats - Oceans & Seas
Edition Description:
Mass Market PB
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
6.76x4.20x.88 in. .36 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » General
Science and Mathematics » Physics » Meteorology
Transportation » Nautical » General
Transportation » Nautical » Nautical Lore

The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea Used Mass Market
0 stars - 0 reviews
$2.50 In Stock
Product details 320 pages HarperTorch - English 9780061013515 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A superb book."
"Review" by , "Mesmerizing...Packs an emotional wallop."
"Review" by , "Impeccable research...supports this solid account. Junger expertly braids together the individual histories of the six-member crew of the doomed Andrea Gail with those of the economically depressed fishing town of Gloucester, Mass., and various New England fisheries. In lesser hands this amount of detail could sink a narrative. But here it comes together as a seamless chronicle in which weather itself emerges as the protagonist. Junger relates facts on everything from the physics of waves to the science of hurricanes....Despite all of its detail, however, what ultimately makes this a unique and admirable book is its portrayal of individual lives."
"Review" by , "Junger's fine dramatic style is complemented by a wealth of details that flesh out the story: wave physics and water thermoclines; what it means if you see whitewater outside your porthole; where the terms mayday, ill-wind, and down East came from. Reading this gripping book is likely to make the would-be sailor feel both awed and a little frightened by nature's remorseless power."
"Review" by , "As with any true-adventure story, you wonder if you ought to be getting such a bang out of real people's real suffering. But in The Perfect Storm, we're sharers, not voyeurs. The book is a humanizing reminder that we, too, could – probably will – be called on to bear more than we could possibly imagine."
"Review" by , "Guaranteed to blow readers away....A+."
"Review" by , "Thrilling....Even if you have never been to sea, Junger's account will put frighteners on you."
"Synopsis" by , October 1991. It was "the perfect storm" — a tempest that may happen only once in a century — a nor'easter created by so rare a combination of factors that it could not possibly have been worse. Creating waves ten stories high and winds of 120 miles an hour, the storm whipped the sea to inconceivable levels few people on Earth have ever witnessed. Few, except the six-man crew of the Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing boat tragically headed towards its hellish center.
"Synopsis" by , The incredible true account of the most extraordinary storm of the 20th century, this is the story of a tempest born from so rare a combination of factors it was deemed "perfect" and of the doomed Boston boat with her crewof six fishermen that was helpless in the midst of a force beyond comprehension. Told in exquisite detail, this "New York Times" bestseller has already left an indelible impression on critics and readers everywhere.

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