Before the Wind

From the publisher:

Joshua Johannssen has spent all of his life surrounded by sailboats. His grandfather designed them, his father built and raced them, his Einstein-obsessed mother knows why and how they work (or not). For Josh and his two siblings, their backyard was the Puget Sound and sailing their DNA. But both his sister and brother fled many years ago: Ruby to Africa and elsewhere to do good works on land, and Bernard to god-knows-where at sea, a fugitive and pirate. Suddenly thirty-one, Josh--who repairs boats of all kinds in a Steinbeckian marina south of Seattle--is pained and confused by whatever the hell went wrong with his volatile family. His parents aren’t talking, his mystified grandfather is drinking harder, and he himself -- despite an endless and comic flurry of online dates – hasn’t even come close to finding a girlfriend.

But when the Johannssens unexpectedly reunite for the most important race in these waters--all of them together on a classic vessel they made decades ago--they will be carried to destinies both individual and collective, and to a heart-shattering revelation. Past and present merge seamlessly and collide surprisingly as Jim Lynch reveals a family unlike any other with the grace and humor and magic of a master storyteller.


Advance Praise from Fellow Novelists

“Such a wonderful novel—so wry, wise and engaging, so sleek and descriptive— that I already have a spot picked out for it on my bookshelf, next to those other classic stories of iconoclastic Western families, Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion and Duncan’s The Brothers K.” —Jess Walter

“To the land-bound, sailing has always seemed to be the perfect marriage of science and poetry. This makes Jim Lynch the perfect writer for this story—the story of a family with an outlaw brother, a magical sister, and a legacy of wind, water, and sail. Lynch brings his usual gifts—a wide-ranging mind, an ear for precise but musical language, empathy, intelligence, and imagination—to what may be his best yet. I so loved this book!” —Karen Joy Fowler

“Magnificent. Heartbreaking yet affirmative, so emotionally powerful that I had to look up from the pages several times to regain my own bearings, Before the Wind reveals the ways in which family ties, however tenuous and imperiled, are what best define us frail, wondrous human beings, sailors and landsmen alike.” —Howard Frank Mosher


“From the first paragraph I was hooked by Jim Lynch’s language, his humor, his wisdom. The characters are marvelous; the storytelling confident and rollicking; the whole book a delight and a surprise.” —Maria Semple

“Jim Lynch does for sailing what A River Runs Through It did for fly-fishing, with all the complexities and exhilarations of family, failure and the ties that hold us together set to the addictive rush of hulls slicing through water. A beautiful book that smells of the sea with every turn of the page.” —Luis Urrea

“This is a terrific book. I love that Einstein is from beginning to end its genius loci, and that the endlessly changing physics of sailing are mirrored by the fluid dynamics of the Johanssen family. Lynch writes as if every single one of his myriad details comes from intimate first-hand experience. What I most admire is the tender regard in which he holds all his characters, in all their unpredictable mutations.” —Jonathan Raban

“With its unforgettable setting, irresistible warmth, and oddball cast of characters, Lynch has given us a Cannery Row for the Great Northwest. This is that rare book you can recommend to anyone.” —Jonathan Evison

“Glorious. Put a rambunctious family clan of misfits and genius sailors in Jim Lynch’s masterful hands, and what you get is a gorgeous, full-bodied novel that contains pretty much all of life . Before the Wind takes off at gale force and never lets up.” —Ben Fountain

Advance Praise in Canada

"Before the Wind is a barn burner of a book. A perfectly weighted narrative that tacks gracefully between humour and pathos, a cast of compelling oddballs, and enough arcane lore of hardcore mariners and science geeks to make your head spin with wonder. A great read." -- Michael Crummey, Sweetland