Synopses & Reviews
One Christmas Eve, Whale Harbor is visited by a man who thinks hes Jesus and claims to be looking for a game of poker. But, as usual, things are not quite what they seem. Having some version of the Lord in town for his birthday creates a strange effect on the locals: unlikely couples are breaking up and making up and making out; a luxury mobile home that belonged to an elderly couple from New Jersey (until they disappeared after a run-in with “the Lord”) is won by a down-on-his-luck gambler in an unbelievable hand of poker; the areas most well-known and long-forgotten tourist attraction is rising up from a hole in the ground; and a gun no one has used in years is suddenly in hot demand. In the steamy climes of southern Florida, you take your miracles where you can get them—and if that means being led to salvation by a schizophrenic with a rap sheet, so be it.
In the rollicking tradition of Carl Hiaasens Tourist Season, with the heart of Garrison Keillors Lake Wobegon, and peopled by the kind of colorful characters who would be quite at home in any Tom Robbins novel, N. M. Kelbys Whale Season is a sharp and funny novel made up of equal parts comic adventure and serial-killer inspired mayhem.
From the Hardcover edition.
In the tiny south Florida town of Whale Harbor, the Christmas holidays are turned upside down by the arrival of a mysterious drifter in a loincloth who is walking around town claiming to be Jesus Christ, a situation that appears to be having a bizarre impact on the inhabitants of and visitors to the town. Reprint. 20,000 first printing.
About the Author
N. M. Kelby spent twenty years as a print and television journalist before she began writing novels. She lives in Sarasota, Florida.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
ABOUT THIS GUIDE
In this wacky, laugh-out-loud comedy with a dark side, a serial killer who believes he is Jesus arrives in the small town of Whale Harbor, Florida, on Christmas Eve. In rapid succession, the down-but-not-out gambler Leon bets it all on the American Dream (a giant, brand-spanking-new recreational vehicle, of course), strip-club owner Dagmar gets her blues-playing Buddhist father Jimmy Ray to admit his paternity, and a drunk and celebratory Leon accidentally sets his home ablaze, leading everyone to believe hes dead. Add in a mayor who dies his hair with Jell-O, a sheriff whose mom still buys his underwear, and a psychopath in a loincloth, and you have the perfect recipe for murder and mayhem-Florida-style.
This guide is designed to help you direct your reading groups discussion of N.M. Kelbys delightfully screwball novel Whale Season.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1) The book offers a veritable panoply of vibrant, strange, and original characters. Who is your favorite character, and why?
2) Many fantastic and outrageous events occur in Whale Season. Do you feel the story is more of a farce or an allegory? Are there any myths, legends, or tales the book brings to mind?
3) How did you feel about Leon when he was first introduced? Did you find his character sympathetic? Did your feelings about him change as the story progressed? Why or why not?
4) Doctor/Jesus is often referred to as having “bible eyes.” What do you think this phrase means?
5) Why do you think Jimmy Ray and Dagmar had never discussed the possibility that they were related before Doctor/Jesus came to town?
6) “Everybodys got to have a moral code,” Leon asserts (page 61). This seems to be true for many of Whale Harbors residents. As a used RV salesman, Leons code of honor is “ignorance is bliss.” Contrast the morals of Jimmy Ray, Leon, Trot, Dagmar, and Doctor/Jesus. Who seems best served by their personal world view?
7) “Florida is heavens waiting room.” (page 41) “Jesus is everywhere in Florida. Its as if its his winter headquarters.” (page 8) Does the author have a love/hate relationship with the state of Florida? Could this book have taken place anywhere else and retained the same feeling?
8) What does the lack of whales in Whale Harbor symbolize to you? Do you believe their appearance at the novels end is real?
9) “You stopped to pick me up because you want to believe in miracles; thats not such a bad thing,” Doctor/Jesus says to Dagmar (page 70). It seems that everyone in Whale Harbor is more than willing to accept the presence of a man who thinks he is Jesus at Christmas-even a Jesus that kind-of gives them the creeps. Why do you think that is?
10) Religion and belief play a huge role in the novel. Do you think religion-both as a concept and a practice-is treated with respect or disrespect here?
11) Dagmar inherited the Dream Caf? from her uncle. She says she doesnt have the stomach for the business and yet turned the caf? into a profitable enterprise that she hopes to franchise. How do you feel about Dagmar and what shes done with her life? Would you invite her to join your book club? Would you be her friend?
12) “Its the Hallmark card of death, dont you think? Killed by the American Dream-how perfect a death is that for a Buddhist?” Doctor/Jesus asks Jimmy Ray (page 276). How appropriate a symbol of the American Dream do you find the giant RV to be? Dagmar says its “not my dream, but somebodys” (page 69). Do you think the author offers judgments about her characters based on who might or might not call the RV their dream?
13) Do you think Doctor/Jesus would have been able to go through with killing Jimmy Ray? Do you think Jimmy Ray would ultimately have tried to defend himself? Is it possible that Jimmy Ray had made his peace with dying, despite what he told Doctor/Jesus?
14) Did the ending come as a surprise to you? Were you satisfied with the resolution of each characters story? Is there any character (or characters) you wish had been given a different outcome?
15) Bender, the bartender/Mayor, barks as a form of prayer and encourages everyone to find their own inner dog. Please take a moment to find your own inner dog and bark accordingly.