The Stranger in the Lifeboat [Book Review]

December 3, 2021

The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom

The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom (cover) Image: white and red text on a dark blue background....small image of people in a red boat against a sinking white sun

Genre/Categories: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Reflection, Survival

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

What if?

What if we called on God for help and God appeared?

What then?

After a catastrophic ship explosion, a desperate group of individuals struggle to survive on a lifeboat. One of them claims to be “the Lord.” Will he help them? Save them? How will the individuals in the group react? Will they believe him? One of the passengers, Benji, keeps a journal documenting each day, reflecting on his guilt over the accident, and expressing his love for his wife. This journal is found a year later on the abandoned and empty lifeboat. This journal affects the man who found it in profound ways.

My Thoughts:

Well…..this review is difficult to write! If you’ve read the book, you know! So….here’s my nonreview review!

Lots of Discussion Possibilities: First, I think this is a book for discussion and not review. I think each person will take something different from this book and might find multiple themes to connect with personally. The Stranger in the Lifeboat would promote a grand discussion at book club!

Mystical Mitch: Fans of Mitch Albom know and are well prepared for “mystical Mitch.” I love him for bravely exploring how the soul and eternity and spiritual ideas intersect with our physical world. If you are looking for a theological answer to the “what if…” question Mitch poses, I think you need to look elsewhere. I don’t think it’s fair to expect a theologically based story when that wasn’t his intent (in my opinion).

In lieu of a traditional review, I’m simply sharing thoughts that were triggered by the following concepts and quotes:

  • I do believe in an incarnate God (Emmanuel, God With Us)
  • I believe that God does show up (how? through other people perhaps? through creation?) I’m fairly certain I heard God speak to me when my son had a tragic accident. It was a short phrase that I knew wasn’t from my own thoughts and I heard it (maybe not literally but I felt it) so strongly that I trusted/knew it was from God. On another occassion when I was driving along a deserted country road on the way to my father’s funeral, I felt the presence of God (or angels) so strongly that I’ll never forget the sensation.
  • Mitch poses the question: “I have struggled with faith much of my life. I was a dutiful altar boy, like many Irish kids, but the church and I parted company years ago…..Too much disappointment. Not enough comfort. Still, I never considered what I would do if I called for the Lord and He actually appeared before me.”
  • My favorite passage:
    When asked “What do I do now?”
    “Forgive yourself,” she said. “then use this grace to spread my spirit.”
    “How do I do that?”
    “Survive this voyage. And once you do find another soul in despair. and help them.”
  • How did you do it, Benji? How did you survive all that way alone?
    “I was never alone,” the man said.
  • The last paragraph: “In the end, there is the sea and the land and the news that happens between them. To spread that news, we tell each other stories. Sometimes the stories are about survival and sometimes those stories, like the prescence of the Lord, are hard to believe. Unless believing is what makes them true.”

Content considerations: grief, death, rememberance and refelections of a child death, suicide, dire conditions

Recommended: I’m definitely recommending this for fans of Mitch Albom, for readers who love literary fiction and appreciate reflecting on the meaning of life and spiritual things, and for book clubs. Honestly, I’m not sure I understand everything that Mitch is trying to convey in this story, but I love his creativity, his risk taking, and his attempt to explore the meaning of life and the “what ifs.” I imagine there will be mixed reviews of this book, so you might want to check them out! I think, though, that this is a book where you will want to “see for yourself”!

What if you called out to God and he appeared?

My Rating:  4.5 Stars (rounded to 5)


The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom (cover) text on a dark background...vignette of a rowboat on the water

The Stranger in the Boat Information Here

Related (other books by Mitch Albom that I’ve reviewed on the blog): Finding Chika, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

Meet the Author, Mitch Albom

author Mitch AlbomMitch Albom is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, which have collectively sold more than forty million copies in forty-seven languages worldwide. He has written seven number-one New York Times bestsellers – including TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, the bestselling memoir of all time, which topped the list for four straight years – award-winning TV films, stage plays, screenplays, a nationally syndicated newspaper column, and a musical. Through his work at the Detroit Free Press, he was inducted into both the National Sports Media Association and Michigan Sports halls of fame and is the recipient of the 2010 Red Smith Award for lifetime achievement. After bestselling memoir FINDING CHIKA and “Human Touch,” the weekly serial written and published online in real-time to raise funds for pandemic relief, his latest work is a return to fiction with THE STRANGER IN THE LIFEBOAT (Harper, November 2021). He founded and oversees SAY Detroit, a consortium of nine different charitable operations in his hometown, including a nonprofit dessert shop and food product line to fund programs for Detroit’s most underserved citizens. He also operates an orphanage in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, which he visits monthly. He lives with his wife, Janine, in Michigan. Learn more at,, and


Is The Stranger in the Lifeboat on your TBR or have you read it?

Are you a Mitch Albom fan?

Do you have a favorite book by Mitch Albom?

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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  1. I might go to hell for this but whenever I think of God appearing I think of the South Park episode where he appeared as like the dinosaur monster and Humanity only got to ask one question and Stan asked about why he hadn’t gotten his period Yet? I seriously think that it’s going to be something like that

  2. This book sounds very touching and emotional. I think there is something to be gained from hearing other people talk about their experience with religion.

  3. Such and excellent post/review/non-review Carol. I have talked about this book with friends, but haven’t written my review. I honestly don’t know what to say without giving the story away. It is definitely a book that has made me think. I am going to give it another try today.

    • Yes, it was the most difficult review/nonreview to write! 😂 I think it’s a book to discuss not review! I’ll be eager to read your thoughts!

  4. I enjoyed this book so much that I read it twice. It made me think. I like the feeling I got from the way each accepted his death and that when the man’s wife woke up to talk to him, she was not cured, but would be good.
    I like the way free will was addressed. It definitely didn’t assuage my fear of sharks! Loved this book and highly recommend

    • Thanks for sharing! I love Mitch Albom and the risks he takes to think about big questions! It’s definitely a rereadable book that will connect with each reader in a special way. It’s on my “reread someday” list.

  5. I loved the stranger’s responses when asked a question or made a statement. When Lambert is upset because he lost his boat, the stranger replies, “You are in another”. Lambert says it’s not the same. The stranger says yes, this one is still floating. Such wisdom is truly a characteristic of God.

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