Not Waving But Drowning is a chronological look at growing up, formed from two different stories. The two sets of friends represent the American dilemma between what you have known and what you hope to know; the tear between longing for the past and the desire to explore.
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Deep into a solo voyage in the Indian Ocean, an unnamed man (Redford) wakes to find his 39-foot yacht taking on water after a collision with a shipping container left floating on the high seas. With his navigation equipment and radio disabled, the man sails unknowingly into the path of a violent storm. Despite his success in patching the breached hull, his mariner’s intuition and a strength that belies his age, the man barely survives the tempest. Using only a sextant and nautical maps to chart his progress, he is forced to rely on ocean currents to carry him into a shipping lane in hopes of hailing a passing vessel. But with the sun unrelenting, sharks circling and his meager supplies dwindling, the ever-resourceful sailor soon finds himself staring his mortality in the face.
The story is about Amber, a mean popular girl who gets electrocuted and dies and is not allowed to enter into heaven unless she helps the least popular girl in school become Prom Queen within a week, but things do not go as planned.
Simon Birch tells the story of Joe and Simon’s heart-warming journey of friendship. Simon Birch was born with a condition that makes him much smaller than all the other kids in town. Now, due to his condition, Simon thinks God made him this way for a reason and highly believes in God. Together, Joe and Simon go on a journey of trust and friendship to find the answers to many things. Their friendship is put to the test when some unfortunate events happen.
Harvey Cheyne, Jr., second richest person in the world, orphaned and spoiled rotten, encounters a cigar and the sea on his way to England for boarding school. Seasick, over the rail for real, rescued by Dan Troop of a Gloucester fishing sailboat. Three months at sea, under a firm but fair Captain Troop (fair wages of $10.50 a month, if you don’t work you don’t eat). A hard life and a dangerous one, and a lot of growing up to do through hardship and tragedy.