A motley team of whale enthusiasts rescues a killer whale, or at least consigns him to a more commodious captivity.
Hammond returns to the scene of her last large-mammal cautionary tale (Hannah’s Dream, 2008), the Max L. Biedelman Zoo in fictional Bladenham, Wash. Viernes, an aging orca who was captured in the North Atlantic as a pup, is close to death in a Colombian theme park when he is rescued by Biedelman’s zookeepers, Truman and his girlfriend, Neva, with funding from Truman's aunt Ivy, an eccentric philanthropist. After transporting him to his comparatively luxurious tank at Biedelman, Viernes, renamed Friday (the English translation of his Spanish name), attracts attention from scores of whale fans and, inevitably, animal rights activists. A creature communicator, the quirkily named Libertine Adagio, is drawn to Friday’s side when she receives subliminal messages from the whale. Under Ivy’s mentorship, Libertine signs on as a volunteer caretaker for Friday, under the strict and jaded tutelage of Gabriel, a globe-trotting wildlife expert. Friday, who lived in a state of chronic malnutrition in his South American pool, is gradually regaining his health on a carefully augmented diet of raw fish. Soon, he’s beginning to thrive on the affection he gets from his trainers and audience. This book raises many issues concerning killer whales as theme park entertainers, addressing the cultural phenomena that have contributed to both orca fever and captivity controversies (see Free Willy, Shamu, etc.). However, the plot mechanics grind too slowly, clogged with colorful but rambling dialogue and too much whale maintenance how-to. The principal conflicts—romantic entanglements among Friday’s team and the ultimate dilemma of whether Friday’s ongoing captivity is really less cruel than returning him to the wild—take too long to develop. By the time a genuine crisis erupts, readers may well have given up on these appealing but phlegmatic characters.
The controversial and topical premise will be of primary interest to hard-core orca aficionados and, no doubt, someone in Hollywood.