Eye of the Whale
Douglas Carlton Abrams
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Release Date: August 2009
Publisher: Atria (Simon & Schuster)
Author Site: http://douglascarltonabrams.com/main/
My Rating: 4/5
Synopsis [from simonandschuster.com]:
Elizabeth McKay is a dedicated scientist who has spent almost a decade cracking the code of humpback whale communication. Their song, the most complex in nature, may in fact reveal secrets about the animal world that no one could have imagined. When a humpback whale swims up the Sacramento River with a strange and unprecedented song, Elizabeth must decipher its meaning in order to save the whale and ultimately much more. But as her work with the whale captures the media's interest and the world's imagination, many powerful forces emerge who do not want the whale's secrets to be revealed. Soon, Elizabeth is forced to decide if her discoveries are worth losing her marriage, her career, and possibly her life.
As timely as today's ecological challenges and as timeless as the whales themselves, this novel takes readers into the mysterious world of humpback whales and great white sharks. In writing Eye of the Whale, Abrams worked closely with leading scientists and did extensive research on the shockingly true facts on which it is based. This powerful story will transform the way readers see their relationship with other species and with the fragile world in which we live.
I'm a huge animal lover. And I really like to see authors respect the intelligence and crucial role that animals play. I think whales are magnificient creatures and despite what science already knows about them, I feel there is that much more to discover. I knew before I read the book that I would enjoy it and find it interesting. I wasn't prepared for it to leave a lasting impression on me or really affect me emotionally. Although I probably should have because animals really tend to touch a soft spot in my heart.
Elizabeth McKay, a marine biologist, is currently working on her PhD thesis. She plans on discussing humpback whale communication and how their songs relate to their behavior. The passion she has for the whales she studies is clearly expressed in Abrams writing. She's so deep into her research that her personal life along with her marriage is starting to fail. And it doesn't help when Elizabeth discovers an impossible change in the whale's song from a humpack that swims up the Sacramento River. She finds herself quickly dragged into a mystery that will not only affect the whale population, but even the human race.
Elizabeth was a very likeable character. I can understand an all consuming passion that takes over someone. She desperately needs to get her dissertation done. She needs to find the time and energy to bring her marriage back from the brink of divorce. Elizabeth is very strong-willed, intelligent, and bold. Other times she can be very cautious. I think she was developed nicely along with many of the other characters.
Her husband, Frank is easy to sympathize with. There are other whale researchers and even whalers that are important to Elizabeth and her story that Abrams reveals enough personality and background information to thorghouly satisfy me. Not only do they have to race against the clock to save this stranded whale, but they have to fight off a Japanese corporation that aims to promote whaling and make whale meat and international delicacy.
The research that Abrams did for this novel had to be extensive. I can't help but think how much of an adventure it was to research humpback whales. If you visit Abrams' website you can see some pictures he took and more info on the type of research he conducted. And while I appreciate the research that was woven into each chapter, I found the end lacking something. The beginning of the novel started out so strongly, but after closing the book I felt a tad bit disappointed. The writing didn't change and the ending was done fine, I just felt somewhere Abrams lost his momentum. But I can overlook that because overall I really enjoyed EYE OF THE WHALE. I think it's found a permanent home on my bookshelf.
And while I'm all for animal rights and against whaling myself, I didn't feel this was "preachy" at all. The environmental issues brought up in the book were extremely thought-provoking but I don't think they will make people uncomfortable. I know and understand how some are not comfortable with the issues that the world is facing. Sometimes ecological documentaries and books can be depressing and upsetting while they are nothing but the truth. But Abrams was able to weave the horrid facts of the world with a fiction story that will sure to stay with you after reading.
I think this book would be a great choice for any animal lover or just a person that wants to feel a little bit more. The emotion set in this novel is pretty amazing. Abrams is able to give us a glimpse into the lives of these whales and give them a "human" presence that I've never read before. The whale scenes were beautifully written and extremely enjoyable.