Man Overboard by Monica Dickens is the story of Ben, a widower and the father of a daughter, who is decommissioned from the British Navy and has to figure out how to make his way in the civilian world. His entire working career has been in the navy and he struggles to find a job and to decide what he really wants out of life.
The book follows Ben through the confused early stages of his new life when he gets involved with a beautiful television actress who obviously isn't right for him and when he is desperately trying to find a job. Many characters seem to come and go in this book. Just when you get used to a character and settle in thinking they are going to be a continuing part of the story they disappear. In many ways they seem to symbolize the impermanence of Ben's own life. He isn't settled so the people around him aren't either.
One character I really liked is Ben's daughter, Amy. Here is a description of her.
"Amy, who was never the same child for more than a few weeks at a time, was having one of her old-fashioned periods, when she called Ben Father and was rather stiff and formal with him. Since it made her more docile too, in a beaten down Victorian sort of way, it was one of her easiest disguises to cope with; but it made her rather dull, and the lunch, which was a celebration of her tenth birthday, was not being very gay."
How can you not love a little girl who play acts and who constantly fits her personality to what she views as the exigencies of the situation?
I also really liked this window into Ben's personality since I also am an inveterate people watcher.
"He had found out long ago that the fascination of a group of strangers fades as soon as you become part of the group. The discovery, however, did not impair his enjoyment of other people's lives at a distance. Without envy or discontent, he was an appreciative Peeping Tom, yearning after houses glimpsed from a train, basement kitchens, shadows moving behind a blind, lighted front rooms seen from a street at dusk before a silhouetted figure drew the curtains on the intriguing interior."
Ben, after many trials and tribulations, comes to realize what is important in life.
"He must go back and make her understand the truth; that nothing was any good alone, that if they were all together, something would turn up, and whatever it was, however small and unimportant, they could all be happy sharing it."
This was not a book of any life-changing wonderfulness. It was however, a pleasant and enjoyable read. I found myself really caring about Ben and Amy and hoping things would work out for them. Monica Dickens writes books that pull you into the story. This is not my favorite of hers, but I definitely enjoyed it. Sometimes a little enjoyment is all you are looking for.