I feel privileged.
A while back, I became acquainted with one John Yunker through his online short story, "The Tourist Trail." I was impressed with his thoughtful prose, even then. When John told me that he was expanding the short story into a novel, I became excited. Finally--someone who can write and who knows their penguins. Truly a novel mix.
A couple weeks ago, John sent me a copy of his new novel and although I had other commitments at the time, I eyed the book, trailed my hand along the cover, peeked at John's autograph on the first page... I allowed the book to tease me with anticipation. At the first opportunity, I grabbed the book, made a pot of coffee, put the computer on "sleep," and then settled in on the couch to indulge in, what I hoped, was a good read.
Consensus: I couldn't put the book down; I devoured it in two days.
The plot: The story is populated by 4 major characters--Angela, Aeneas, Robert/Jake, and Ethan. Angela studies, counts, and tags Magellanic Penguins at the Punte Verde Preserve; although she loves her profession, she doesn't realize the vastness of the void in her life until she meets a raft-wrecked Aeneas. She follows Aeneas back to his ship and learns the largest lesson of her life. Robert/Jake works for the FBI and he is hot on the trail of Aeneas, who roves the seas in order to cause havoc and mayhem to would be whalers. Robert has a past, which becomes significant as the story moves towards a convergence of all the characters. Ethan is the young man who searches for meaning and purpose in his life; what he discovers will alter his life irrevocably.
Of course, the backdrop of the main storyline is inhabited by penguins and whales. Be prepared for a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye as your read how horrible the conditions are when these creatures meet their end at the hands of fishermen and whalers. John's perspective is a personal one and you are right there with him to see it all.
Overall, The Tourist Trail is a testament to how humans and the inhabitants of the sea interact and affect one another. As the characters learn and adapt, so does the reader. I promise that you will finish the book with a different perspective regarding our responsibility to life in the sea. John's prose is effective, succinct, and definitive. You will know these characters he has created and you will live their lives until the final page.
Let us hope that John Yunker will continue to write and gift us with his thoughtful insight; he is decidedly an author to watch. I also hope that The Tourist Trail will garner the eye of a Hollywood producer. I eagerly anticipate this novel converted to the big screen. Indeed, the book would be perfect for a big budget flick and the message within would touch so many more lives.
If that happens, I'll buy the popcorn.
(You can purchase this book HERE)