Review of The Whaler's Daughter

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Review of The Whaler's Daughter

Post by jrbrady »

[Following is a volunteer review of "The Whaler's Daughter" by Jerry Mikorenda.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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The Whaler’s Daughter, by Jerry Mikorenda, depicts life for an Australian whaler’s daughter at the turn of the twentieth century. The reader sees everything from the perspective of twelve-year-old Savannah Dawson. Savannah is a hardworking, artistic girl of Scottish heritage whose family have been whale hunters for generations. She longs to connect with her emotionally distant father by joining the crew of his whaling boat instead of being the crew’s cook. Savannah mourns the loss of her mother and brothers alone. She believes orcas killed her brothers and seeks the opportunity for revenge. Orcas are dangerous creatures but necessary in aiding the hunt for sperm whales. When Savannah achieves her dream of joining the crew, hunting whales is not what she expected. Her perspective shifts after her aboriginal friend Figgy helps her discover a spiritual connection with the orcas through his native mysticism. She decisively takes action to save her newfound friends when they face extermination.

I particularly enjoyed part one of the book because Mikorenda has a talent for vivid similes that drew me into the setting. I have never read another book that contained many simple yet beautiful sentences. I related to Savannah’s desire to grieve with her father instead of being ignored. It is interesting to see the melting pot of cultures that depend on the whaling industry. The author hints that this industry is dying because of progressive technologies replacing the need for whalebones, oil, etc. I enjoyed the unique aboriginal perspective Figgy’s character brought to the story. The story seems well researched, and I learned about whaling!

As the story progressed, my enjoyment wanned. The plot becomes disjointed after the introduction of Jungay the Orca. The personal development of the main characters screech to a halt. There are several unmemorable side characters added late to the story. The depiction of a romance between Savannah and Figgy is sweet but seems unrealistic for their age. The jargon gives historical and cultural accuracy to the story but was distracting for me. Mikorenda includes a glossary at the back of the book, but it would be more useful at the front. The antagonist is annoying because his character is flat and cliché. Mr. Bitterman is a wealthy and arrogant Southern American who will crush any creature who gets in the way of his greedy pursuits.

I rate this novel 3 out of 4 stars. It is exceptionally well-edited, and the main character is engaging. I have never read a historical novel about whaling, so it was interesting to experience a snapshot of that profession. I wish I could have enjoyed this story enough to give it a higher rating. Once the character development stalled midway through the novel, the plot was not strong enough to carry my engagement to the end.

Even though this book was not my favorite, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. This book was written for children ages 12 and up. I think a young adult would enjoy it more than a younger reader due to the complicated jargon and more mature themes of death and grief.

The Whaler's Daughter
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