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Reviewed by Nino Lobiladze for Readers' Favorite
Ann Ketchum is a divorced mother of nineteen-year-old Brian, living in a dull, beige house in a Southern California suburb. After her husband, Dan, had left her, Ann became agoraphobic and never left her home. Brian is jobless and still lives with his mom. He plays video games in a dark room. Ann and Brian don't get along. The disappointed mother often yells at her overweight son, who leads a purposeless life. Then, one day, an unbelievable thing happens. A whale swallowed Brian, who had finally left his room to spend time on a boat with his friends. Ann is crushed with grief, but shockingly enough, she gets a call from Brian's phone! Ann knows her son is alive and stuck in the whale. His mother will move heaven and earth to save him at any cost. Meanwhile, Brian sends a bottle with a library card and a dollar bill from the whale with his name on it. A little girl finds this bottle on the Alaskan coast. From California to Alaska and Norway, Thar She Blows by Susan Emshwiller is a tale about hope, commitment, love, and forgiveness for fans of adventurous prose and family drama novels.
Thar She Blows is a story about inner metamorphosis. Susan Emshwiller lets us participate in this process. I started by sympathizing with Ann in her stressful situation. Then, I got irritated with her irrational behavior. Next, I hated this self-absorbed, always yelling and punching people person to realize, in the end, how much I loved and admired her powerful character that never gave up. This beyond-talented author gave me the most remarkable reading experience. Also, there is a teenage boy swallowed by a whale. From the Bible, we know that we get stuck in a sea monster to rethink our relationship with a supreme being. In Brian's case, it is his mother. Despite Susan making clear allusions to the Bible, the story is never moralistic but is a perfect example of magical realism at its finest, full of subtle humor and sparkling irony. Susan creates an engaging subplot about the adventures of the bottle sent by Brian. It revolves around the burning topic of PTSD and the hardship of parenting. The interconnections between the two plotlines lead to an unexpected romance and the most breathtaking ending one could hope for. Susan Emshwiller asks how many of us live in the whale in isolation, like Brian in his darkened room, and motivates us to grow up and take better care of our mutual home.