The Purrington Lecture Series hosted by the Mattapoisett Public Library has once again given those living in the local area the opportunity to hear directly from a globally-known author, this time in a recent appearance by Michael Tougias.
Tougias has written 30 adventure novels, some geared towards young adults. But if you’re not a young adult you probably know Tougias and coauthor Casey Sherman for their novel, “The Finest Hours,” the true story of what he deemed “the most daring sea rescue” undertaken by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1952. This tale of heroic scope was later turned into a movie by Disney Studios.
To say Tougias has enjoyed success would be to understate what is obvious – he is a master at bringing adventure to the page, but his latest book “The Waters Between Us” departs from his well- established genre to something vastly more personal, his early years growing up and his father.
To begin his presentation, Tougias, a Massachusetts native, shared his back story. “I was a wild kid and a magnet for trouble,” he began. Tougias said he and his family loved the outdoors and would take family vacations that gave him and his siblings plenty of space to run free and explore nature. It would give Tougias a mostly safe place to burn off energy. He said that by today’s standards, he would have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, but while a youth, he believed he was just “pushing the limits.” He said, “My father loved me but he didn’t like me,” and what he wanted most, he wrote, was to be liked.
Speaking of his father, Tougias’ voice softens a bit as he talks about the grueling work his father did as a baker, a vocation he brought with him as a Greek immigrant. “He worked from 4:30 am to 3 pm, it was brutal.” He said his father had been a sergeant in the Army during World War II. A man, one can surmise, driven by duty to country and family, confused and befuddled by a son often out of control.
Such a father had a difficult time dealing with a child who held the record for the most after-school detentions. “I was always moving,” Tougias said. However, he wasn’t a child trying to defy behavioral norms just for the fun of it, he simply didn’t think through the consequences of his actions.
For Tougias there was an ebb and flow in his relationship with his father. He said that there were times when their relationship enjoyed harmony, but then another bit of trouble he caused would put father and son at odds with one another again. Throughout his childhood, this push and pull would be a hallmark.
The defining moment in the family resulted when his sister suffered severe, lifelong injuries from a car accident. Tougias said his father’s devotion to caring for his injured child forced him to see his father in an entirely new light. “Tragedy shook our world, and my father’s remarkable response to this event caused me to step back and see the man he was. By observing him throughout this ordeal, I too became a man.”
The “Waters Between Us” expounds upon the healing that can be found in being outdoors in nature, the joy, the freedom and ultimately the space to grow physically and emotionally.
Tougias has another passion besides writing adventure stories that grip us and carry us away; he is also a motivational speaker. He brings new insights to those facing business challenges with such themes as strategic decision making under pressure and resiliency.
To learn more about Tougias’ novels or his motivational writings, visit michaeltougias.com.
By Marilou Newell