The Unsinkable Greta James: Book Review

I don’t know about you, but I love a good rock star story. I’ve been obsessed with music since I was a young girl, so it’s only natural I also enjoy a good rock-n-roll novel. After all, I was raised by VH1 and MTV. :) Good thing Jennifer Smith’s written one of the best new rock-n-roll fictions I’ve read in a while, The Unsinkable Greta James! I devoured this one like I was watching an episode of Behind the Music. And weeks later I’m still singing its praises!

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The Unsinkable Greta James Book Review


Greta James is a rock star. So why in the world is she boarding a cruise ship, guitar in tow, for a week-long adventure to Alaska? Shouldn’t she be boarding a plane to some major city for a festival or a massive arena show? Truth be told, her career is on shaky ground after her last disastrous performance.

How in the world could she have thought going on stage less than a week after her mom died? And who in their right mind would try to sing an unfinished song they started writing on the flight home to see their dying parent in front of tens of thousands of people? Greta, that’s who. She’s always had guts, but she seems to have completely lost her mojo. Her manager and her label are breathing down her neck to release her new album and get back on stage, but she’s not sure she can.

For the first time in a very long time, the thought of getting on stage, writing songs, or even playing her guitar doesn’t excite her. Has she lost the second great love of her life as well as her first? The guitar has been her escape for as long as she can remember. But as she got better, her father seemed to lose interest in her playing; it hurts because he was one of her earliest supporters.

Her mother became the stand-in parent, coming to as many shows as she could wearing a sign around her neck that said “Greta’s Mom.” But now she’s gone, and Greta didn’t even get to say goodbye. To say her grief is complicated is an understatement. The guilt threatens to drown her.

But it’s not just Greta who’s suffering. She knows her father is hurting, too, but it’s so hard to feel safe enough to get close to him. He seems to hate every choice Greta’s made over the years, and he never lets her forget it. Her brother has basically twisted her arm into being her father’s plus-one on the anniversary trip their parents had planned to Alaska.

Now she’s standing on the deck of a cruise ship wondering how this help is going to help her sort out her issues? She’s not sure about anything anymore, so she’ll drift along with the ship in search of something to moor her to the present and push her in the direction of the future. Maybe she’ll drift in the direction of the cutie across the deck along the way.


I freaking loved this book, y’all. I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it would be great! This is one of two new releases I’ve read recently that dealt with the acute loss of a parent, and both were very moving and heartfelt. Smith does an excellent job drawing in the reader into the storyline in The Unsinkable Greta James, enveloping us in the pain Greta’s experiencing after her mother’s death. Their relationship was very reminiscent of my own relationship with my mother, so I had no trouble empathizing with the main character’s grief.

The complicated relationship between Greta and her father gives additional dimension to the plot, especially when juxtaposed with her budding romance with a fellow traveler. There were definitely moments when I was super conflicted about Greta and her father. I wanted them to resolve their issues so I occasionally found myself hoping Greta would make a move toward reconciliation, but there were also plenty of times I felt frustrated and angry for his lack of support. More than once the tension between the two was palpable, neither able to forgive the other. There is one scene in particular when I felt sure they would never see a way through their issues,

In the end, there’s some degree of uncertainty around Greta and her situation, but the author finds a way to instill hope in the final pages despite the uncertainty, leaving me feeling satisfied with the overall outcome. I was left wanting more information about what happens to Greta’s career and love life, but I got the sense that everything would work out for her even though the pain of losing her mother may never go away. Despite her rock-star status, there’s something refreshingly real about this main character, which I, for one, appreciated!


Whether you’re a rock star or not, we can all relate to losing someone special. Whether we’ve lived it or not, there’s something to be said about the deeply human experience of loss. Smith’s new novel, The Unsinkable Greta James, is a marvel worth adding to your TBR and to your permanent shelves. You won’t regret it!

my rating for The Unsinkable Greta James

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About Carlie

Hi there! I'm a 40-ish book lover, always looking for the next great read, particularly the best historical fiction. I live in Los Angeles with my fella and our fur babies, Fozzy and Polly. Working from home changed my life. Suddenly, I had time in my day to read again. I love sharing my reading journey here on my website and social media. Be sure to follow along for reading recommendations and honest book reviews.

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