There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries. (4.3.218)
We must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures. (4.3.247)
Both quotations from Julius Caesar seem somewhat apt for the theme of The Wreckage. Except that sometime it is not a normal tide to be taken but a tsunami which picks one up and tosses a life this way and that.
The message of the book started to come through loud and clear by the last half after a lengthy set up. Little decisions, impulsive actions, can have lasting and often disasterous consequences. What if Wish had not said the rosary over the coffin, and Hardy had not come to bribe him away, if Wish had not beaten him up so he thought he was dead, and had not run away? What if he Wish had not met up with the two Canadians? What if Mercedes had not followed Wish and stayed in Little Fogo? Lots of "what ifs".
Like our lives, the course of the lives of Crummey's protaganists seemed both determined by their earlier actions but also crafted from the pressures surrounding them - religious and cultural conflict, intolerance, discrimination - passed down to them from families and generations past.
I thought the author in putting together his stories and characters, showed considerable psychological insight. The characters had distinct and believable personalities. The author has put in some details which are puzzles to intrigue the reader: We search for meaning for example from the story of the horse put on fire prior to Wish's birth and it's possible connection to Wish's birthmark on his neck which looked like a horse and the death of Mercede's daughter, killed by a horse. Crummey also added some nice historical colour without letting his research swamp the "boat" of the story.
I liked this book in the end after having some doubts about it in the middle.