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“The Castaway” is a seafaring fever dream in the grand tradition of Joseph Conrad, Paul Bowles, and Robert Stone, with an uncanny dash of the supernatural. Long after you’ve finished this enthralling novella, it will continue to haunt.

A watchman aboard a tanker spies a sailboat, weather-beaten and covered in barnacles, adrift in the middle of the Pacific. Out of the cabin emerges a solitary boy, about six years old, clean and neatly dressed. He has no food or water yet is seemingly untouched by his random progress across the ocean.

He is rescued and taken on board, where he is eyed skeptically by the captain. “He looks like he is coming home from school. How is this possible?” The boy doesn’t speak a word, though at times he cries out like a seagull. He spends his days staring at walls or at the shifting shapes on a computer’s screen saver. The crew presents him with a cake, then watches in astonishment as he holds his finger in the flames of its candles without being burned.

The boy’s only protector is the tanker’s first mate, Shahid, a tenderhearted family man. As he watches over the eerily impassive child in an isolated cabin, the ship becomes increasingly uneasy. When the crew becomes sick with a mysterious illness to which the boy appears invulnerable, the fear becomes palpable, leading to a shocking conclusion that will be impossible for readers to erase from their minds.


Frank Huyler is the author of two novels, “Right of Thirst” and “The Laws of Invisible Things,” and a nonfiction book about his experiences in medicine, “The Blood of Strangers.” His poems and essays have appeared in many publications, including “The Atlantic Monthly,” “Poetry,” and “The American Scholar.” He is an emergency physician and an associate professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.


"Magnificent. A beautifully written, beautifully sustained piece of work. The prose—so unhurried and precise—made me think of Melville, both 'Bartleby' and 'Billy Budd,' and of Camus's 'The Plague.'" —Paul Auster, author of "Moon Palace" and "The New York Trilogy"

“It turns out that mesmerizing fiction set at sea hasn’t gone the way of the tall ship after all. Frank Huyler’s ‘The Castaway’ made me want to assemble a new anthology of nautical novellas just so I could place it where it belongs, in the company of Conrad’s ‘The Secret Sharer’ and Melville’s ‘Benito Cereno.’ ” —Donovan Hohn, author of “Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them”


“Dr. Huyler’s writing is quiet, precise, spellbinding from beginning to end … Easily holds with the best contemporary fiction.” —The New York Times

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