"Sea State" | Reviewed by Pat Sainz
`Tabitha Lasley has written a remarkable memoir about six months living in Aberdeen, Scotland, where she gathered stories from oil riggers working off the North Sea. She moved there from England just before the world’s political sphere was upended by Brexit in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump in the United States.
While many people were shocked at the changes that occurred in 2016, Lasely wasn’t. She had talked to over 100 oil riggers worried about the influx of migrants working for low wages. The oil riggers were bitter over the lack of jobs in their hometowns which led them to take dangerous and lonely jobs on oil rigs. They felt ignored by the cultural elite.
Each chapter begins with a statement by an oil rigger describing life at work. Inherently treacherous, dangers are made worse by management’s pressure on supervisors to ignore shoddy repairs or the incompetence of poorly trained workers.
Oil riggers describe the tension that arises from working for weeks closely confined with other men. They express worry about leaving their families for so long. Many of the men, flush with cash, spend the first few days of their leave in Aberdeen with women, drink profusely, and panic that their wives will find out.
Lasley writes compellingly of her own troubled life. When her computer was stolen in a home break-in, she lost the contents of an entire book about oil rigs, one she had worked on for four years. She then decided to change her approach, and she chose to leave her volatile boyfriend.
Lasley writes honestly of her relationship with one of the first men she interviewed. She has little in common with the married man who never reads and who is gone weeks at a time, yet she is in love with him.
In “Sea State,” Lasley sheds light on a profession filled with Isolation, extreme danger, and a disconnect with “normal” life. Movies such as “Deep Horizon” (2016) show the dangers of the job but exclude the daily challenges involved with working as an oil rigger.
This a memoir of unusual depth. It provides unique levels of insight into psychological and reactionary behavior by people under stress. Lasley was a journalist for 10 years. This is her first book, and I look forward to reading others by her.