Cast Away

True Stories of Survival from Europe’s Refugee Crisis

From Time magazine’s European Union correspondent, a powerful exploration of the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, told through the stories of migrants who have made the perilous journey into Europe

“This is a fascinating and necessary book about one of the great tragedies of our age as people flee failed and failing states
in pursuit of a safe and normal life. It is essential reading for anybody interested in the individuals taking part in this mass flight and why they feel they have no choice but to escape.” —Patrick Cockburn

In 2015, more than one million migrants and refugees, most fleeing war-torn countries in Africa and the Middle East, attempted to make the perilous journey into Europe. Around three thousand lost their lives as they crossed the Mediterranean and Aegean in rickety boats provided by unscrupulous traffickers, including over seven hundred men, women, and children in a single day in April 2015.

In one of the first works of narrative nonfiction on the ongoing refugee crisis and the civil war in Syria, Cast Away describes the agonizing stories and the impossible decisions that migrants have to make as they head toward what they believe is a better life: a pregnant Eritrean woman, four days overdue, chooses to board an obviously unsafe smuggler’s ship to Greece; a father, swimming from a sinking ship, has to decide whether to hold on to one child or let him go to save another.

Veteran journalist Charlotte McDonald-Gibson offers a vivid glimpse of the pressures and hopes that drive individuals to risk their lives. Recalling the work of Katherine Boo and Caroline Moorehead, Cast Away brings to life the human consequences of one of the most urgent humanitarian issues of our time.

Praise

“[T]his stirring contemporary account roots the mythic perilous journey in the heartbreak of personal stories.”
Booklist
“This is a fascinating and necessary book about one of the great tragedies of our age as people flee failed and failing states in pursuit of a safe and normal life. It is essential reading for anybody interested in the individuals taking part in this mass flight and why they feel they have no choice but to escape.”
—Patrick Cockburn
“This is a book that needed to be written and stories which needed to be told.”
—Alex Crawford, author of Colonel Gaddafi’s Hat
“McDonald-Gibson’s gripping storytelling has a cinematic quality as she inhabits the minds of these individuals. At times it’s easy to forget that these are the experiences of real people, not fictional characters, as the reader becomes immersed in harrowing stories of danger, deception and disillusionment.”
The Irish Times
“McDonald-Gibson keenly evokes the hell of [these] voyages: water lapping over the sides of the boats, nothing to eat or drink, failing engines, bodies thrown overboard. To read these vivid stories is to understand not just the enormity of what is taking place, but the courage and desperation of those who embark on them.”
—Caroline Moorehead, New Statesman
“Skillfully weaving together the tragic stories of her subjects, McDonald-Gibson successfully humanizes them and provides readers a much-needed inside look at a significant problem. A powerfully written, well-documented account of a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.”
Kirkus Reviews
“A remarkably well documented and vivid account of why and how people are on the move towards Europe, an indictment of the European Union and its member states, and a call for moral clarity and political leadership. ”
—François Crépeau, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants
“We have digested the refugee crisis in its scary statistics, its shocking images, and in the xenophobic reactions it has provoked inside Europe. But in Cast Away we discover the human reality of the biggest crisis of our times as it is experienced by the individuals concerned, in all the painful particularity of their individual lives, reported and narrated with vigor and compassion.”
—Peter Popham, author of The Lady and the Peacock
“A closely reported, passionately argued, often deeply moving account of five refugees’ journeys to Europe. . . . It yanks away the anonymous screen of numbers and brings you face to face with real people—people you can recognise, in situations you can’t.”
The Guardian
“A series of portraits which re-humanise individuals who are routinely treated as statistics when they are not demonised outright. . . . An invaluable reminder that most migrants are people who are really not so very different from us.”
International Business Times
“Searing tales of courage, hardship and survival that reveal the terrible human cost of Europe’s dystopian borders. A tour-de-force of committed investigative reporting.”
—Matthew Carr, author of Fortress Europe

News and Reviews

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Charlotte McDonald-Gibson have each garnered major accolades for their respective new books, 

The New York Times

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson, author of Cast Away, writes about refugees in the town of Mechelen, Belgium for The New York Times

O, the Oprah Magazine

O, the Oprah Magazine lists Cast Away as one of their "25 Books to Read This Fall"

The Guardian

Read an excerpt from Cast Away in The Guardian

Pages