Visiting the Galápagos islands has been a lifelong dream of mine, so when I spotted this book about the islands by an author who had been there, I jumped at the chance to read it. And it was such a rewarding experience. Hockman has done a fabulous job with Shipped. The book provides the reader a front row seat in experiencing the magic and wonder of the Galápagos as the protagonists explore the islands. And even as they discover the beauty, the beauty has an effect on them and their relationship. In some books, the setting is a backdrop; in this book, the setting is as much a character as the protagonists.
Henley Rose Evans is not one to make waves as a marketing manager at Seaquest Adventures, a global adventure cruise travel company based in Seattle. She works tirelessly, and bookings for Pacific cruises have done up every quarter since she joined the company. However, her ambition to make director before the age of thirty is being thwarted by a sexist boss. Henley also moonlights as a graduate student in business administration, and as if she isn’t busy enough, she skimps on sleep to work on her never-ending task list.
Graeme Crawford-Collins, AKA Graham Cracker in Henley’s head, is the social media manager at Seaquest and works remotely from Michigan. He joins in business meetings from his home over a tinny phone line. This is in pre-Zoom days. He has a tragic backstory that has made him unable to work in a high-powered job. His fear of public speaking and being uncomfortable in large groups further compounds his isolation. So even though the Seaquest job is a step-down for him, it suits him.
When the story opens, Henley and Graeme have known each other for over a year. And since the first few days, when he took credit for her video of funny wildlife footage clips from their cruises, she has been at loggerheads with him. She thinks he is a conniving, brownnosing employee who is bro-bonding with their boss. And their boss clearly prefers Graeme over her every single time, further earning her ire. Naturally, Graeme seems to draw negative energy from her animosity and in turn is the bane of her existence.
So when their boss announces that he is creating a brand-new position of director of digital marketing, he pits Henley and Graeme against each other because they are now vying for the same promotion. To make matters worse, their boss forces them to go on a cruise to the Galápagos together so they can experience a full voyage and pitch him a winning digital marketing proposal.
The book is from Henley’s point of view, so we get a picture of Graeme filtered through her perceptions of him, his conversation with her, and how he acts around her. We are not privy to his thoughts. And yet, Hockman is able to convey a whole complex person. I marveled at how well Hockman was able to paint a picture of two protagonists through the viewpoint of one. It is a rare author who can do that. Most single POV books shortchange the non-POV character, as if character is revealed only through thoughts, not dialogue and action.
Hockman shows how convoluted Henley’s image of him was as she slowly gets to know him. Goes to show how skewed online (or on phone in this case) perception of a person can be versus face-to-face. Without body language and with a tenuous ether connection, her view get warped and she jumps to conclusions about him that are not based in facts and truth. For example, that interactions about him taking credit for her funny video that went viral? His phone was acting up and he couldn’t hear properly what was going on in the meeting, but he didn’t want his new manager to know that he wasn’t able to participate professionally in a meeting remotely. Such a simple explanation that was misconstrued.
The reader’s first glimpse into Graeme’s kindness and thoughtfulness comes from the care he shows in helping Henley overcome her fear of water. What Hockman cleverly does is have the reader one step ahead of Henley on being on Graeme’s side and seeing his goodness. So we wait with anticipation as Henley slowly comes to that same realization and her soul recognizes the wonder of being with someone who is truly wonderful.
I highly recommend Shipped if you are looking for a tender story of discovery of the true person behind outward façades. This is especially THE story for you if you’re wildly fascinated with the Galápagos like me.