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The Ploverby Brian Doyle
The Plover is not exactly a sequel to Mink River — more of a companion piece — but fans of the latter will be thrilled to find out what happened to one of the most beloved characters. After sailing his little boat off the final pages of Mink River, the story of Declan O'Donnell continues in The Plover. Declan is a man of serious solitude, and he is pleased to be starting a journey of peace and quiet. But there is no quiet in Brian Doyle's head — it is full of magic, mutterings, and musings, and once these things are in motion, there is no stopping them.
Before Declan knows what has hit him, he has a boat full of bodies — both human and otherwise — along for the ride, "...ranging in size from [enormous] to an infinitesimal acorn barnacle, just born as this sentence began, and no bigger than the period which is about to arrive, here." No, there will be no solitude for Declan — and how lucky for us. The Plover is a rambling, charming sea voyage, full of thrills, danger, and narrow escapes.
It's also an excellent observation on the nature of things unseen: on what may be, on ideas, on imaginings, aspirations, and dreams. There is so much substance underneath Doyle's dazzling, rich language, I just wanted to read each sentence over and over until every whisper of nuance was absorbed, recognized, and experienced. Reading Doyle's writing is an enchanting discovery of how shattering and awe-inspiring language can be, and his literary contortions are both improbable and captivating at the same time.
Remember the first book you loved as a child? Remember how you wished so hard you lived in that book? That feeling is Doyle's "normal," and we should all be so lucky to live in his world.
From the author of Mink River, a jaunty, modernist take on the seafaring yarn, complete with a grizzled boat captain, resident gull, and prose that sparkles and leaps like the ocean waves it travels.
Synopses & Reviews
Declan O'Donnell has sailed out of Oregon and deep into the vast, wild ocean, having had just finally enough of other people and their problems. He will go it alone, he will be his own country, he will be beholden to and beloved of no one. No man is an island, my butt, he thinks. I am that very man....
But the galaxy soon presents him with a string of odd, entertaining, and dangerous passengers, who become companions of every sort and stripe. The Plover is the story of their adventures and misadventures in the immense blue country one of their company calls Pacifica. Hounded by a mysterious enemy, reluctantly acquiring one new resident after another, Declan O'Donnell's lonely boat is eventually crammed with humor, argument, tension, and a resident herring gull.
Brian Doyle's The Plover is a sea novel, a maritime adventure, the story of a cold man melting, a compendium of small miracles, an elegy to Edmund Burke, a watery quest, a battle at sea — and a rapturous, heartfelt celebration of life's surprising paths, planned and unplanned.
"The latest from Oregonian literary luminary Doyle (Mink River) is an uncomfortable mix of nautical exactitude and magical realist plotting. Declan O'Donnell, a middle-aged fisherman in contemporary Oregon with nothing to tie him to the land, decides one day to set out alone across the open ocean in the modified fishing boat Plover. This early section is engrossing, with Declan detailing his preparations, confronting the ocean's vastness, and going slightly crazy talking to seagulls. The book starts to falter when Declan, visiting the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i for provisions, discovers an old friend, Piko, and Piko's young daughter, Pipa, waiting to join his crew. Pipa has been left unable to speak after being hit by a school bus but, once aboard, demonstrates an extraordinary ability to communicate with birds. Soon a cast of other eccentrics have joined the crew, spoiling Declan's hope for solitude, while the ship is put in danger by repeated run-ins with a mysterious pirate trawler. Every sentence Doyle writes about the ocean smacks of authenticity, which makes these additional plot threads seem all the more incongruous. When the novel focuses on Declan and the elements, the results are gripping, but when it strives to be a modern-day South Seas yarn, the results quickly go adrift. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“The Plover is about beauty, loneliness, the mysteries of the sea, albatrosses, an unforgettable young girl, language, healing, and love. And plenty more. Brian Doyle writes with Melville's humor, Whitman's ecstasy, and Faulkner's run-on sentences; in this book he has somehow unified his considerable talents into an affirming, whimsical, exuberant, and pelagic wonder. Few contemporary novels shimmer like this one.” Anthony Doerr, author of The Shell Collector
“Brian Doyle has spun a great sea story, filled with apparitions, poetry, thrills, and wisdom. The sweet, buoyant joy under every sentence carried me along and had me cheering. I enjoyed this book enormously.” Ian Frazier, author of Travels in Siberia
“Board this boat! Here's Doyle at his probing, astonishing, wordslinging best.” Robin Cody, author of Voyage of a Summer Sun
"Doyle has written a novel in the adventurous style of Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson but with a gentle mocking of their valorization of the individual as absolute. Readers will enjoy this bracing and euphoric ode to the vastness of the ocean and the unexpectedness of life." Library Journal
"A rare and unusual book and a brilliant, mystical exploration of the human spirit." Kirkus Reviews (starred)
A compelling, marvelous novel by Brian Doyle, the acclaimed author of Mink River
Declan O'Donnell has left Oregon aboard his boat, the Plover, to escape the life that's so troubled him on land. He sets course west into the Pacific in search of solitude. Instead, he finds a crew, each in search of something themselves, and what at first seems a lonely sea voyage becomes a rapturous, heartfelt celebration of life's surprising paths, planned and unplanned.
About the Author
Brian Doyle edits Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon. He is the author of thirteen books: six collections of essays, two nonfiction books, two collections of “proems,” the short story collection Bin Laden's Bald Spot, the novella Cat's Foot, and the novel Mink River. He is also the editor of several anthologies, most recently Ho`olaule`a, a collection of writing about the Pacific islands. Doyle's books have seven times been finalists for the Oregon Book Award, and his essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Orion, The American Scholar, The Sun, The Georgia Review, and in newspapers and magazines around the world, including The New York Times, The Times of London, and The Age (in Australia). His essays have also been reprinted in the annual Best American Essays, Best American Science & Nature Writing, and Best American Spiritual Writing anthologies. Among various honors for his work is a Catholic Book Award, three Pushcart Prizes, the John Burroughs Award for Nature Essays, Foreword Reviews' Novel of the Year award in 2011, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2008 (previous recipients include Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O'Connor, and Mary Oliver).
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