The Last Cruise (Hardcover)
I went on a 1950s-style cruise as written by the magnificent Kate Christensen. The reader boards the Queen Isabella: raucous, decadent, and financed by spoiled, uber-rich moguls, she's the quintessential American vessel. In her cabins, characters make runs at changing their lives. Christine Thorne used to be a journalist, but she gave it up to marry a farmer in Maine. She’s starting to feel that life has passed her by. Meanwhile, down in the galley, chef Mick Szabo wants to secure a less hectic gig on land, but it’s no picnic balancing mouthy, rebellious staffers with prickly management. Christine and Mick both appreciate luxury, but things have changed in the new millennium, making the good times tenuous in this remarkable 1950s-style voyage about America in the here and now.
— From What is Todd Robins reading?
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. 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.
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.
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.
About the Author
Kate Christensen is the author of six previous novels, most recently The Astral. Her fourth novel, The Great Man, won the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. She is also the author of two food-centric memoirs, Blue Plate Special and How to Cook a Moose, which won the 2016 Maine Literary Award for Memoir. She has published many essays and reviews, most recently in Vogue, Elle, Bookforum, O, the Oprah Magazine, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Food and Wine. She lives with her husband in Portland, Maine.