Doyle (Mink River, 2010, etc.) sets off with Declan O'Donnell, he of "flinty soul" and "salty confidence," sailing along the 45th parallel across the wide Pacific.
In near stream of consciousness, wave upon wave of words tumbles out in long, beautifully rendered, description-packed sentences, running on and on, as Declan, captain of the Plover, "a roomy coffin," skims across water two miles deep and weighing "about eighty quintillion tons." The narrative is rife with allusions, symbolism and metaphor, as Declan first encounters the Tanets, a tramp freighter/pirate ship/smuggler captained by amoral Enrique. Declan next tires of 45th parallel weather, bears south and finds an isolated island. There, he's met by his Oregon friend, Piko, who knew Declan would stop there, even if Declan did not. Beloved wife dead of cancer, Piko boards the Plover with Pipa, his brain-injured, paralyzed daughter, who’s still "sending her large spirit out exploring in ways and realms she has not yet tried to explain." Pipa chirps, whistles and peeps, and birds flock to the little boat. The Plover is again stopped at sea by the Tanets. Enrique needs a navigator and shanghais Piko. Declan follows, rescues Piko, and then finds that Enrique’s mysterious, giant, androgynous crewman, Taromauri, has slipped aboard the Plover. Taromauri is searching for her sea-swallowed daughter. Shadowed by a single gull, "one of the thirteen...one of the shining ones," a spirit of life’s energy focusing on Pipa, the Plover’s crew gains a boy from northern forests; Tungaru is "minister for fisheries and marine resources and foreign affairs," exiled because of his utopian politics. After a fiery confrontation with the Tanets, Declan and company sail "[f]ree as air" on "[t]he continent of the sea."
A rare and unusual book and a brilliant, mystical exploration of the human spirit.