Mounting the Whale

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It only took five words. Five words to shake up the stagnant status quo of a dysfunctional family. Those five words, sent via text message, were, “Cartel got me. Tell mom.” Upon receiving this notification, a young woman named Carlyle quickly sets out on a quest for Mexico along with her mother and two siblings, to rescue her older sister and perhaps strengthen the unstable bonds of her family unit along the way.

What contributes most to the genuine charm of Colleen McCarty’s debut novel Mounting the Whale is the excellent cast of characters. Theirs is excellence derived not from the fact that they are so good, but rather from the fact that they are so frightfully imperfect that they frankly come off as honest and human. Each character has his or her own critical moral shortcomings they must surmount, generally some form of selfishness. Indeed, all the characters that make up the Pierce family have supremely selfish tendencies, so readers will be fascinated to find out just how they are able to perform the selfless act of rescuing one of their own from a drug kingpin.

Take main character Carlyle, for example. Her inner conflicts are explored throughout a majority of the narrative, especially her deep-seated desire to not grow up to be like her mother. Carlyle is so obsessed with escaping her mother’s shadow that she alienates her husband and drives him away with her coldness. Still, she is a kind and competent young woman, and perhaps the most overtly likable character. Her mother, Cybil, suffers from crippling loneliness that she can only alleviate by blindly pouring money into online gambling. However, Cybil at least attempts to be a supportive mother and is willing to gamble for the sake of her family when the right time comes. Overall, while the members of the Pierce family are certainly flawed, they are not altogether reprehensible. They are like real people.

The same, however, cannot be said for the novel’s villains, who are eccentric to the point of being outright cartoonish in some instances. Luckily, this is forgivable, given the novel’s tone. Mounting the Whale is a dramatic black comedy that seamlessly intersperses moments of mature insight with gut-busting hilarity. Other than the rushed resolution, it is a fine story, an admirable first effort from Colleen McCarty.

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Star Count 4/5
Format eBook
Page Count 258 pages
Publisher Cloud Cover Press
Publish Date 05-Dec-2013
ISBN 9780615876016 Buy this Book
Issue April 2014
Category Modern Literature


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