The Rathbones

Janice Clark. Doubleday, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-385-53693-6
A teenager comes of age and grapples with the heavy burdens of family secrets against the backdrop of the 19th-century New England whaling industry in this beautifully written, playful, and intricate debut novel. Fifteen-year-old Mercy Rathbone’s father, a whaler, has been away from home for nearly a decade, but Mercy holds out hope for his return. She happens to witness her mother coupling with a stranger, a scene that prompts Mercy and her cousin Mordecai to flee their home in panic. They embark on a journey of discovery that leads her to the truth about her missing brother and the rest of her family (the inclusion of several family trees with ever-spreading branches is a nice visual companion to the prose). Mercy’s travels alternate with flashbacks depicting her ancestors, beginning in 1761, with Moses, the first Rathbone, who had the gift of spotting a whale before any sign of it was visible. Clark creates evocative descriptions (a whale’s carcass is a “diminished hulk of patched black and rotted gray”), making her images and encounters between people especially vivid. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/20/2013
Release date: 08/06/2013
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FORMATS
Hardcover - 601 pages - 978-1-4104-6520-7
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