It’s been five years now that Ingrid has left her husband and former life to work on board the luxury cruise liner WA. She regularly has to rotate between the different departments and thus has become an expert of the ship and knows every corner. With Mia and her brother Ezra, she has befriended two colleagues with whom she passes her limited free time. When she is selected for a mentorship programme and promoted to manager, things become more complicated between them, Mia is obviously envious of her friend’s new position. Yet, Ingrid is not sure if she can fulfil the high expectations of Keith, captain and guru of the team. But she is willing to give all – and that is more than you could ever imagine.
After having finished reading “The Odyssey”, I was left wondering and confused. Lara Williams’ novel was a hilarious read until it wasn’t anymore. It is somehow a totally exaggerated caricature of the cruise ship and well-being industries and on the other hand, from the middle of the novel on, I was wondering if the plot actually takes place on a cruise ship or if much rather the staff are actually patients of a psychiatric ward for whom the “cruise ship” is a kind of simulation of real life.
The cruise liner offer all a tourist might want to ask, there is no need to leave it since you have several restaurants serving all tastes, all kinds of shops and treatments to make your stay a perfect break-out. It doesn’t matter that the staff is hardly trained, they are friendly and the guest is king. Just as the employees are pretend-professionals, all aboard is just fake and serving a superficial image of perfection. Had social media not been invented yet, this cruise liner would surely underline the need for it.
Ingrid’s past is slowly revealed throughout the novel. That she more or less fled her former life is obvious, however, the reasons remain in the dark for a long time. The non-life she leads has become the perfect escape and spending hours in her small cabin staring at the ceiling is all she wants to do. The mentorship programme forces her to get out of her cave and think about herself and her life. Keith is the ultimate travesty of a guru. His concept is quite limited but with enough cold water and matcha tea he can create a spiritual atmosphere to impress his underlings.
This might all be very funny if it wasn’t for the fact that it seemed much too real to me. Even though the cruise ship is a special setting, what happens there is not too far from our life that has become more online fake than real for many and where behind the sparkly facade, you can find highly insecure and troubled people. Reckless gurus can easily become leaders spreading their nonsense and making masses of people follow their rules not matter how senseless.
A novel you can laugh out loud while reading but which leaves you with an uneasy feeling when thinking about what you’ve just read.