South, Mary

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South, Mary


Home—New York, NY. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer and mariner. Founding editor, Riverhead Books; worked as editor at Houghton Mifflin, Ballantine, Rodale, and Little, Brown publishers.


(Coeditor) The Limestone Valley, The Bicentennial Committee (Timonium, MD), 1976.

The Cure for Anything Is Salt Water: How I Threw My Life Overboard and Found Happiness at Sea (memoir), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of the blog The Cure for Anything Is Saltwater.


Mary South's memoir The Cure for Anything Is Salt Water: How I Threw My Life Overboard and Found Happiness at Sea is an account of the author's decision to make drastic changes in her life following her fortieth birthday. South had a successful, fulfilling career in the book industry. She was a cofounder of a publishing company, Riverhead Books, and she had edited many successes, including the famous South Beach Diet. Despite it all, however, she felt a strange blend of boredom and despair with her life as she turned forty years old. Such feelings are relatively common at midlife, but few people react to them the way South did.

She abruptly left her job, in a way that most people only dream of: she walked out of the office on her coffee break one day and did not return. Afterwards, she sold most of her possessions, including her house. She then pursued her dream of buying a boat, even though she had very little experience on the water. "None of this was easy, and South describes the emotional blend of charging ahead while wondering what she was doing," explained a reviewer for South first purchased the Shady Lady, then later a forty-foot, thirty-ton steel craft, which she planned to sail from Florida a thousand miles up the East Coast. She enrolled in a nine-week course on seamanship. Her fellow students included a filmmaker, a fisherman, a trucker, and an executive. When the class concluded, South and one of the other students were ready to take charge of the trawler she had bought, the Bossanova.

The author acknowledges there is nothing new or extraordinary about sailing up the East Coast; many people have done it before. Yet, in a personal sense, the whole adventure of buying the boat and learning to sail it was tremendously groundbreaking and a very significant personal achievement. For the novice sailors, there were plenty of challenges, including storms, beautiful and difficult weather, and deceptive currents. Her sailing partner was very much unlike South, revealing his sexist outlook in casual conversation. Yet, "the two were surprisingly companionable," noted a contributor to Kirkus Revews. "Together they braved storms, navigated at night, nearly capsized and drank at marina bars."



South, Mary, The Cure for Anything Is Salt Water: How I Threw My Life Overboard and Found Happiness at Sea, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.


Booklist, May 1, 2007, Deborah Donovan, review of The Cure for Anything Is Salt Water, p. 65.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2007, review of The Cure for Anything Is Salt Water.

Publishers Weekly, February 9, 2004, "An Editor at Sea," p. 14.


HarperCollins Web site, (January 27, 2008), biographical information about Mary South., (May 15, 2007), review of The Cure for Anything Is Saltwater.

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South, Mary

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South, Mary