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The Plover
Cover of The Plover
The Plover
A Novel
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Declan O Donnell has sailed out of Oregon and deep into the vast, wild ocean, having had just finally enough of other people and their problems. He will go it alone, he will be his own country, he will be beholden to and beloved of no one. No man is an island, my butt, he thinks. I am that very man. . . .
But the galaxy soon presents him with a string of odd, entertaining, and dangerous passengers, who become companions of every sort and stripe. The Plover is the story of their adventures and misadventures in the immense blue country one of their company calls Pacifica. Hounded by a mysterious enemy, reluctantly acquiring one new resident after another, Declan O Donnell's lonely boat is eventually crammed with humor, argument, tension, and a resident herring gull.
Brian Doyle's The Plover is a sea novel, a maritime adventure, the story of a cold man melting, a compendium of small miracles, an elegy to Edmund Burke, a watery quest, a battle at sea—-and a rapturous, heartfelt celebration of life's surprising paths, planned and unplanned.

Declan O Donnell has sailed out of Oregon and deep into the vast, wild ocean, having had just finally enough of other people and their problems. He will go it alone, he will be his own country, he will be beholden to and beloved of no one. No man is an island, my butt, he thinks. I am that very man. . . .
But the galaxy soon presents him with a string of odd, entertaining, and dangerous passengers, who become companions of every sort and stripe. The Plover is the story of their adventures and misadventures in the immense blue country one of their company calls Pacifica. Hounded by a mysterious enemy, reluctantly acquiring one new resident after another, Declan O Donnell's lonely boat is eventually crammed with humor, argument, tension, and a resident herring gull.
Brian Doyle's The Plover is a sea novel, a maritime adventure, the story of a cold man melting, a compendium of small miracles, an elegy to Edmund Burke, a watery quest, a battle at sea—-and a rapturous, heartfelt celebration of life's surprising paths, planned and unplanned.

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Excerpts-
  • Copyright © 2014 by Brian Doyle

    I
    45° NORTH, 125° WEST


    WEST AND THEN WEST for weeks and weeks or months and months sweet Jesus knows how long. A lifetime of lifetimes. On the continent of the sea. A pair of shaggy claws scuttling on the ceiling of the sea. The silent She.
    West and then west! says Declan aloud, startling the gull sitting atop the Plover's tiny cabin, her feathers ruffling in the steady wind. Onward twisted soldiers! The gull launches without the slightest effort, sliding into the welcoming air. Declan laughs. Go ahead, bird, assume the position, he says, and as if in obedience to the man's command the gull wheels behind and over the stern and hangs exactly nine feet above the boat without even a shiver of her wings. Sweet Jesus, says Declan, I would ask you how you do that, but you know and I know that there are more things than we know, as you know. Onward whiskered soldiers!
    * * *
    The Plover, out of Oregon, skippered by O Donnell, Declan, no fixed address or abode. Last registered midcoast, in Depoe Bay. Originally a small trawler, much amended and edited by its owner, who installed a mast and rigged the boat for coastal cruising. Wrecked once near Neawanaka, minor damage, repaired by owner. For some years a fishing boat bringing in regular catches, occasional permits filed for charter fishing, one permit filed for whale-watching cruise, a number of gratuitous permit applications filed in last three years apparently for the amusement of the owner: for flossing the teeth of unsuspecting whales, in search of Robert Dean Frisbie on account of incontrovertible evidence of his faked demise in the South Seas, in pursuit of the magnetic West Pole, in search of the names of god in the languages of the invertebrates west of the Mendocino Fracture Zone and east of the Emperor Seamounts, and etc. in that vein. Flurries and then blizzards of permit applications filed in the last six months, each more fanciful than the last. Last seen heading directly west from Oregon coast. Captain reportedly stated that he was going to "glom on to the 45th parallel and ride that sucker right onto the beach of some godforsaken island being bickered over by the Japanese and the Russians and claim it anew for Saint Mary Magdalene while none of the formerly murderous imperial powers were paying close attention." Also heard stating that he was going to "turn sharp left at 150 degrees longitude and snatch a Society island, naming it fresh for Saint Catherine of Siena, why should bold imperialism die ignominiously during my brief lifetime, and there were not enough celebrations of and monuments to Catherine of Siena, fine woman, twenty-fourth of twenty-five children, who are we not to sing her praises assiduously with gratuitous acts of theatrical foolery," and etc. in that vein. Conclusion: no destination known. Coast Guard reports no sightings. U.S. Navy Pacific Command alerted. General marine bulletin posted. To be considered lost at sea pending further information if any. Notice of same sent to next of kin. No estate. Three survivors, a sister of age and two minor brothers. No plans for funeral or memorial at this time.
    * * *
    What's on board: two hundred gallons of fuel, stashed in every conceivable nook and cranny. One hundred pounds of rice. Magellan survived on rice and so dammit will we. More onions and heads of garlic than a man can count in an hour, as I well know, having tried. A man is like an onion, is he not, a layered and reeking thing? Fifty boxes of cookies, fifty lemons, fifty limes. An enormous tin of marmalade. Fifty oranges. An enormous tin of olive oil. Fifty small bags of almonds scattered variously throughout the vessel so...

About the Author-
  • BRIAN DOYLE (1956-2017) was the longtime editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon. He is the author of six collections of essays, two nonfiction books, two collections of "proems," the short story collection Bin Laden's Bald Spot, the novella Cat's Foot, and the novels Mink River, The Plover, and Martin Marten. He is also the editor of several anthologies, including Ho'olaule'a, a collection of writing about the Pacific islands.

    Doyle's books have seven times been finalists for the Oregon Book Award, and his essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Orion, The American Scholar, The Sun, The Georgia Review, and in newspapers and magazines around the world, including The New York Times, The Times of London, and The Age (in Australia). His essays have also been reprinted in the annual Best American Essays, Best American Science & Nature Writing, and Best American Spiritual Writing anthologies.

    Among various honors for his work is a Catholic Book Award, three Pushcart Prizes, the John Burroughs Award for Nature Essays, Foreword Reviews' Novel of the Year award in 2011, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2008 (previous recipients include Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O'Connor, and Mary Oliver).

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 28, 2013
    The latest from Oregonian literary luminary Doyle (Mink River) is an uncomfortable mix of nautical exactitude and magical realist plotting. Declan O’Donnell, a middle-aged fisherman in contemporary Oregon with nothing to tie him to the land, decides one day to set out alone across the open ocean in the modified fishing boat Plover. This early section is engrossing, with Declan detailing his preparations, confronting the ocean’s vastness, and going slightly crazy talking to seagulls. The book starts to falter when Declan, visiting the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i for provisions, discovers an old friend, Piko, and Piko’s young daughter, Pipa, waiting to join his crew. Pipa has been left unable to speak after being hit by a school bus but, once aboard, demonstrates an extraordinary ability to communicate with birds. Soon a cast of other eccentrics have joined the crew, spoiling Declan’s hope for solitude, while the ship is put in danger by repeated run-ins with a mysterious pirate trawler. Every sentence Doyle writes about the ocean smacks of authenticity, which makes these additional plot threads seem all the more incongruous. When the novel focuses on Declan and the elements, the results are gripping, but when it strives to be a modern-day South Seas yarn, the results quickly go adrift.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from February 1, 2014
    Doyle (Mink River, 2010, etc.) sets off with Declan O'Donnell, he of "flinty soul" and "salty confidence," sailing along the 45th parallel across the wide Pacific. In near stream of consciousness, wave upon wave of words tumbles out in long, beautifully rendered, description-packed sentences, running on and on, as Declan, captain of the Plover, "a roomy coffin," skims across water two miles deep and weighing "about eighty quintillion tons." The narrative is rife with allusions, symbolism and metaphor, as Declan first encounters the Tanets, a tramp freighter/pirate ship/smuggler captained by amoral Enrique. Declan next tires of 45th parallel weather, bears south and finds an isolated island. There, he's met by his Oregon friend, Piko, who knew Declan would stop there, even if Declan did not. Beloved wife dead of cancer, Piko boards the Plover with Pipa, his brain-injured, paralyzed daughter, who's still "sending her large spirit out exploring in ways and realms she has not yet tried to explain." Pipa chirps, whistles and peeps, and birds flock to the little boat. The Plover is again stopped at sea by the Tanets. Enrique needs a navigator and shanghais Piko. Declan follows, rescues Piko, and then finds that Enrique's mysterious, giant, androgynous crewman, Taromauri, has slipped aboard the Plover. Taromauri is searching for her sea-swallowed daughter. Shadowed by a single gull, "one of the thirteen...one of the shining ones," a spirit of life's energy focusing on Pipa, the Plover's crew gains a boy from northern forests; Tungaru is "minister for fisheries and marine resources and foreign affairs," exiled because of his utopian politics. After a fiery confrontation with the Tanets, Declan and company sail "[f]ree as air" on "[t]he continent of the sea." A rare and unusual book and a brilliant, mystical exploration of the human spirit.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    November 1, 2013
    Editor of "Portland Magazine", Doyle has written 13 books of fiction, poetry, and essays but came to my attention only with the original and wittily lyrical 2010 novel "Mink River"--which actually caught the attention of plenty of readers, becoming an Indie Next Pick and selling well nationally. At first glance, this new work looks to be of the same high caliber. Declan O Donnell aims to escape his tired life by sailing west from Oregon into the Pacific on his boat, "The Plover". Instead of finding peace and quiet, though, he encounters a crew whose various members each have their own issues. It's all about expecting the unexpected; expect this to be good.

    Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • The Oregonian "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)."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred) "A rare and unusual book and a brilliant, mystical exploration of the human spirit."
  • The Portland Book Review "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."
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