The Plover (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

This novel is nothing less than a stubborn, joyful, life-saving journey from the author of the fabulous Mink River. (The protagonist here, Declan, was glimpsed in that novel). I did not want to leave this book at the last page. Magical realism with characters that sing to your heart!

— Victoria

This novel is nothing less than a stubborn, joyful, life-saving journey from the author of the fabulous Mink River. (The protagonist here, Declan, was glimpsed in that novel). I did not want to leave this book at the last page. Magical realism with characters that sing to your heart! ~ Victoria

— From Staff Favorites 2014

April 2014 Indie Next List

“A solitary sea journey for an epically disillusioned man named Declan O'Donnell evolves into a rousing adventure tale in Doyle's The Plover. O'Donnell's small boat becomes the refuge of a number of unexpected -- and largely unwelcome -- passengers, all of them anxious to leave their former lives bobbing in the ship's wake. Lyrical and literate, this novel is as much a love story dedicated to the sea as it is an exciting and ultimately moving human drama.”
— Alden Graves, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT


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.

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 Hoolaulea, 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).

Praise For…

Praise for The Plover

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

Past Praise for Brian Doyle

“Some people can write. Some people can feel. Brian Doyle, born with a silver tongue and a big heart, is among the lucky few who can do both.” —Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

“Virginia Woolf addressed what she called the Common Reader--Brian Doyle doesn’t have any of those. His readers turn instantly and preternaturally uncommon, seeing and feeling and noticing and knowing what they have never before taken in: a kind of laughing piercing antic holiness. To read Brian Doyle is to apprehend, all at once, the force that drives Mark Twain, and Walt Whitman, and James Joyce, and Emily Dickinson, and Francis of Assisi, and Jonah under his gourd. Brian Doyle is an extraordinary writer whose tales will endure.” —Cynthia Ozick, National Book Critics’ Circle Award-winning author of Quarrel and Quandary

“Brian Doyle has a fine quick mind alert for anomaly and quirk--none of them beyond his agile pen.” —Peter Matthiessen, National Book Award-winning author of Shadow Country

“Brian Doyle’s writing is driven by his passion for the human, touchable, daily life, and equally for the untouchable mystery of all else… his gratitude, his sweet lyrical reaching, is a gift to us all.” —Mary Oliver, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Primitive

"Absolutely in the tradition of Northwest literature, richly imagined, distinctive, beautiful ... I was pulled along steadily, my heart raced, I held my breath..." —Molly Gloss, author of The Hearts of Horses 

"If my high-hearted friend Brian Doyle is trying to avoid the nickname 'Paddy,' his wondrous Oregon Coast novel is the wrong feckin' way to go about it. In its sights, settings, insinuations, flora and fauna, his tale is quintessential North Coast, but in its sensibility and lilt this story is as Irish as tin whistles--and the pairing is an unprecedented delight. This thing reads like an Uilleann pipe tour de force by a Sligo County maestro cast up on the shores of County Tillamook. The hauntings and shadows, shards of dark and bright, usurpations by wonder, lust, blarney, yearning, are coast-mythic in flavor but entirely bardic at heart. Doyle's sleights of hand, word, and reality burr up off the page the way bits of heather burr out of a handmade Irish sweater yet the same sweater is stained indigenous orange by a thousand Netarts Bay salmonberries. I've read no Northwest novel remotely like it and enjoyed few novels more. Of an Irishman's Oregon I am nothing but glad to have wandered, Mink River sings and sings." —David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and The River Why

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250034779
ISBN-10: 1250034779
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: April 8th, 2014
Pages: 311
Language: English