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The Plover: A Novel Hardcover – April 8, 2014


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A jack of all literary trades, Doyle (Leaping: Revelations & Epiphanies, 2013) augments his impressive oeuvre with this whimsical dreamscape of a nautical adventure about desolation and friendship. To escape his haunting loneliness, Declan O Donnell sets out on the high seas with no intention of returning to his Oregon home. In fact, he has no intentions at all, except to wander “west and then west” to distance himself from his troubling past. With little company besides a copy of conservative orator Edmund Burke’s speeches and the occasional gull, Declan drifts into the Pacific void to discover not solitude but unlikely companionship. Reluctantly agreeing to aid his recently widowed friend, Piko, and his disabled daughter, Declan finds himself extemporizing fatherhood and pursuing pirates when Piko gets kidnapped. As the adventure escalates, so does the number of his shipmates, humans and sea creatures alike. In stylized prose with frequent nods to Coleridge, Melville, and Stevenson, Doyle’s surreal world is alive with vivid characters, mysterious birds, and lyrical philosophy about contentment. A joyous journey of discovery. --Jonathan Fullmer

Review

"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)

"Conrad, Stevenson and Jack London come to mind, but so does the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez. … The Plover sails delightfully on an imaginative sea of insight, compassion and a kind of mystical grace." (The Seattle Times)

"It is Doyle's careful shaping of his characters' internal landscapes that make The Plover so unique. … A novel of wondrous ideas worth mulling over. … What The Plover has on offer is aplenty: big themes -- the search inner peace, a need to be loved, the destruction of our planet -- flanked by small touches, like the reproductions of ocean-themed woodcuts at the opening of each chapter or the bars of music sprinkled throughout the text (if you have an instrument on hand, give those notes a gander)." (The Oregonian)

"The Plover alternately reminded me of The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith by Peter Carey, with its crippled main character and fictional country; The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, for strange adventures at sea; Florence and Giles by John Harding, for made-up words; and the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez for the elements of magical realism." (Booksquawk)

"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 (starred))

"A rare and unusual book and a brilliant, mystical exploration of the human spirit." (Kirkus Reviews (starred))

"A novel about the sea. It is a rhythmic read. The cadence of the sea and of on-board conversation creates a mosaic of movement. The ocean serves as both protagonist and antagonist. It holds everyone together as it strives to pull everyone apart. It slides through the novel and lulls us into its great heart." (The Portland Book Review)

"The Plover is a fun ride with meaning and heart, lots of it, as well as jokes, scares, storms at sea, surprises, magic, absurdity--and humanity, exuberant joyful humanity." (Shelf Awareness (starred review))

"I don't know how many all-bird novels are out there, but Doyle could rule the canon. The aviary ensemble of?The Plover ('those who have heard it say it has a mournful yet eager sound'), separated from the whole of the narrative, deftly and gracefully drives a stand-alone tale. … But this is a people story -- it's full of them. They are colorfully introduced, down to the detailed fabric of their being and then often released from the tale, only to be intricately woven back in." (The Register-Guard)

"Wisps of other memorable journey books arise as you sail off with the Plover -- The Odyssey, Cold Mountain, Life Of Pi, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Sparrow -- yet this novel defies comparison as it stands out as a purely original, witty, literary, lyrical, philosophical wonder all by itself. Touching, soul-searching and uplifting, while hilariously profane at the same time, Declan's creative epithets are eloquent and frequent. The Plover touches that seeker of truth and redemption that lives within each of us." (Bookreporter.com)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (April 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250034779
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250034779
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Brian Doyle (born in New York in 1956) is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon. He is the author of thirteen books, among them the novels Mink River (big) and Cat's Foot (little; a friend of mine says it is a 'novella' but that sounds like a disease or a sandwich spread), the story collection Bin Laden's Bald Spot, the nonfiction books The Grail and The Wet Engine, and many books of essays and poems. His Huge Whopping Headlong Sea Novel THE PLOVER will be published in April 2014 by St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books, bless their mad hearts. Brian James Patrick Doyle of New Yawk is cheerfully NOT the great Canadian novelist Brian Doyle, nor the astrophysicist Brian Doyle, nor the former Yankee baseball player Brian Doyle, nor even the terrific actor Brian Doyle-Murray. He is, let's say, the ambling shambling Oregon writer Brian Doyle, and happy to be so.

Customer Reviews

The elements of fantasy were well drawn, and the characters were engaging.
B. Bowse
Brian Doyle has a unique writing style that makes prose feel like poetry, yet it is very down-to-earth and accessible.
Wendy C.
This little book can be read again and again, and you will smile each time you do so.
David R. Grube

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on March 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The first chapter of this jaunty, maritime wonder of a book comes as close to a pitch perfect hymn to the sea and all those who travel thereon as I’ve ever read, and I’ve read quite a lot about the sea. It’s jaunty. It’s lilting and lovely and bewitching and….well, you get the idea. Or perhaps not? Well, I haven’t been taken to task, yet, for quoting from an ARC in a, by and large, POSITIVE review, YET; So, here’s a striking passage from that first chapter whereby the prospective reader may judge if s/he has a taste for it:

“We do not even know what it is we do not know, and what we do know passeth speedily away, inundated by what we do know; yet on we go through the ravines, gaping as we go; leaving behind neither fin nor fossil, but stories and voices, tales and music, shreds of memory, faint wakes of words in the water.”

So runs the jaunty, alliterative poetic prose of Declan O'Donnell as he leaves land behind in the company of Edmund Burke and a gull. His adventures on the main have echoes of Coleridge and a bit of Melville, and sundry other literary maritime lights. But I think one reviewer has it pretty much spot-on when he contends that Doyle and O’Donnell reflect the pre Moby Dick Melville, the Melville of Omoo, Typee, and, especially, Mardi. The author himself claims Stevenson as his literary muse. This book - despite its few bounces and jolts happed upon by Declan O’Donnell and his acquired crew - is an idyll. That is to say, it’s the sea minus Joseph Conrad and the darker side of Melville. This is not to say that deaths by water and darkness are not acknowledged with some, at times, striking, lyrical aperçus, but they’re not at the heart of things, so to speak.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Oden VINE VOICE on September 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Yeah, three stars. There it is. Before I get to why, a little preface. Doyle is clearly a great writer, a master of the craft. I wish I could write even near as well as Brian Doyle. So, three stars? Yeah. The thing about Amazon is its not really about a literary review in the classic sense. It's a place where people go to buy stuff, including books, and so the reviews are meant to help readers figure out if they want to make a purchase. I chose to read this book based on the stellar reviews. This now is the review I wish I had read before picking it.

Like I said, Doyle is a great writer, at the height of contemporary fashion in style. And he knows this is true and his fans know this is true. If you disagree you're likely wrong and worthy of being a tool of knowing amusement by your self-appointed betters. Which means it's a risk to not join the popular kids at their table, especially when they're probably right.

I'm not a big literary fiction aficionado, either in girth or purchase history, but I've been a voracious reader my whole life. Jack London and Michener shaped my junior high and high school years. Dostoevsky and Milton arrived in college. Yoskikawa and so many others filled my time. Mark Twain came a bit late, when I found his short stories and then his travel musings. All still favorites. My current profession involves reading a significant amount of very deep and complicated prose. So, I read fiction mostly for relaxation, content neither with shallow or bombast. Doyle's background and topic intrigued me, though. I'm a SoCal guy with connections to the northwest. I love sailing. I love reading books about voyages. Richard Henry Dana got me started with his depiction of early 19th century California.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on June 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The Plover is a converted trawler skippered by Declan O'Donnell, who departs from Oregon with ample supplies of rice and limes, spare parts and the speeches of Edmund Burke. "Destination? Unknown. Agenda? Don't sink." Declan wants to pursue an "aimless amble on the glee of the sea" but events keep interfering with his lack of ambition. Perhaps Declan will find a reason to chart a course after all.

The Plover is a playful voyage through the seas of language. Brian Doyle's inventive prose drifts and floats like Declan's boat, riding the peaks of swells, surging ahead and then meandering as if driven by fickle winds and hidden currents. Owing to Declan's quirky commentary, the story is very funny, but the novel is also a celebration of everything that is natural and glorious: birds, stars, fish, air, islands, sounds, almonds, leaves, storms, scents, dogs, the vast Pacific ... and even people, who always have the potential to be glorious when they stop thinking of themselves "as kings and conquerors" and instead think of themselves as a single link in a vast network.

As for the plot ... well, there is one, but, like Doyle's prose, it's meandering and full of detours. Declan picks up a crew of sorts -- an old friend wrestling with his own demons, the friend's disabled daughter, other strays -- and every now and then a mysterious Russian ship makes an appearance, skippered by a man named Enrique who kidnaps his crew members from other ships. In addition to occasional encounters with Enrique, the story follows a couple of other lives that intersect in ways that show us that, for all its size, this is indeed a small world, at least for those who choose to explore it.
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