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Summary

Summary

Raised in a remote seaside village, Thomas Witka Just marries Ruth, his beloved since infancy. But an ill-fated decision to fight in Vietnam changes his life forever: cut off from his Native American community, he fathers a child with another woman. When he returns home a hero, he finds his tribe in conflict over the decision to hunt a whale, both a symbol of spirituality and rebirth and a means of survival. In the end, he reconciles his two existences, only to see tragedy befall the son he left behind.Linda Hogan, called our most provocative Native American writer, with "her unparalleled gifts for truth and magic" (Barbara Kingsolver), has written a compassionate novel about the beauty of the natural world and the painful moral choices humans make in it. With a keen sense of the environment, spirituality, and the trauma of war, People of the Whale is a powerful novel for our times.


Author Notes

Linda Hogan was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Mean Spirit. Her other honors include an American Book Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in Tishomingo, Oklahoma.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The ocean is a great being ; each whale is a planet, so much life does it sustain. These are truths Thomas and Ruth's Northwest Pacific Coast tribe once held as self-evident. Sweethearts since childhood, they each inherited a working intimacy with the ocean, and their marriage is joyful until Thomas goes off to fight in Vietnam. Ruth is pregnant when he leaves, and when he doesn't return, she devotes herself to their son, who possesses the old gift for communing with whales. Thomas reappears when his fellow Vietnam vets decide to break the ban on whale hunting, hoping to reclaim his legacy as the grandson of a legendary whale hunter. But the others are motivated by greed, and tribal traditions are grievously desecrated. Hogan, a poet, essayist, and quintessential econovelist (Power, 1998), dramatizes the interconnectivity of cultural extinction, environmental destruction, and war as she parallels Ruth's courageous defense of the living world with Thomas' suffering and secret life in Vietnam. She also links the near genocide of aboriginal peoples with the near extinction of marine life. Deeply ecological, original, and spellbinding, Hogan ascends to an even higher plane in this hauntingly beautiful novel of the hidden dimensions of life, and all that is now imperiled.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2008 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

In telling a story of the fictional A'atsika, a Native people of the American West Coast who find their mythical origins in the whale and the octopus, Hogan (Mean Spirit) employs just the right touch of spiritualism in this engrossing tale. When Thomas Witka Just succumbs to peer pressure and joins the army, then is sent to Vietnam, Ruth Small is pregnant with his child. In an attempt to prevent an atrocity, Thomas kills fellow soldiers and deserts, ultimately blending into the Vietnamese culture and fathering a child, Lin, by Ma, a village girl. In the meantime, Ruth gives birth to their son, Marco Polo, who is said to have the same mystical whaling powers of Thomas's grandfather. Years later, following Thomas's return, Dwight, a ne'er-do-well friend of Thomas's, arranges for the tribe to kill a whale and to sell the meat to the Japanese, a plan that will draw in Marco Polo and set up a confrontation between the whole ensemble. Despite the plot's multiple strands, the story flows smoothly, and Hogan comes up with a powerful, romantic crescendo. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Feeling like a stranger as he returns to his Native American village, Vietnam vet Thomas Witka is surprised to find his tribe debating the wisdom of hunting whales once again. With a Southwest tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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