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 A debut collection of stories about the sea, A Sailor's Valentine is a mix of contemporary romantic tales and ocean adventures that are alternately moving, mysterious, melodramatic, and mawkish. In the opening piece, ``The Dream of the Whistling Pig,'' a man dreams he is thrown overboard, only to awaken to find that his unconscious fantasy has become a reality for his missing shipmate. More conventional is the title story, in which a woman from Manhattan falls in love with a fisherman on Cape Cod but must return to her slick city life after the summer is over. With a plot that is clichÇd and sentimental and characters that are too broadly drawn, the reader ultimately doesn't care whether these two end up together. Truly affecting, however, is ``Child in the Shoals,'' the story of a man whose boat is destroyed in a collision with a 523- foot ship and who must literally cling to life by holding on to a buoy while he waits to be rescued. The explicit details of the man's struggle for survival--he eats bird excrement--and his poignant and hallucinatory thoughts of his family make this piece a heart-wrenching read. On an even more existential note, there's the Melvillian ``The Shearwater,'' perhaps the finest story in this collection, in which an old fisherman goes out to sea on just another routine fishing expedition and is pursued through the fog- -and on the radar--by an omniscient force that threatens to collide with his boat and kill him. Moodie is a skillful, if somewhat formulaic writer, and his stories are rarely dull. The author relies too often on technical jargon, however, as if to lend his work a loftiness that it otherwise lacks.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1994
ISBN: 0-312-11053-7
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1994