The Last Whaler

Regal House Titles
$20.95 - $30.95
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Expected release date is 2nd Sep 2024

The Last Whaler is an elegiac meditation on the will to survive under extreme conditions. Tor, a beluga whaler, and his wife, Astrid, a botanist specializing in Arctic flora, are stranded during the dark season of 1937-38 at his remote whaling station when they misjudge ice conditions and fail to rendezvous with the ship meant to carry them back to their home in southern Norway. Beyond enduring the Arctic winter’s twenty-four-hour night, the couple must cope with the dangers of polar bears, violent storms, and bitter cold as well as Astrid’s unexpected pregnancy. The Last Whaler concerns the impact of humans on pristine environments, the isolation of mental illness, the sustenance of religious faith, and the solace of storytelling.

Praise for The Last Whaler

“Cynthia Reeves’s The Last Whaler is an accomplished and magnificent debut. Meticulously researched and fully imagined, it is the story of a couple’s sojourn at an Arctic whaling station in the late nineteen thirties. Told in two distinct and vibrant voices through letters that dramatize daily threats and accomplishments, it is a gripping tale about a marriage under extreme stress as a man and woman, already grieving for a lost child, separately find their peace in inhospitable conditions.”

—Megan Staffel, author of The Causative Factor, The Exit Coach, and Lessons in Another Language

The Last Whaler reimagines the tropes of Victorian and Romantic novels through a uniquely feminist environmentalist lens, rendering a classic story as timely, contemporary fiction. As Tor Handeland reflects on his years hunting beluga whales in the Svalbard archipelago, the reader travels alongside him to the winter that Astrid, his impetuous wife, demanded to accompany him. The clash between a self-determined woman and the traditional male hierarchies of the whaling trade escalates against the backdrop of formidable, stark beauty as the Arctic winter sets in, stranding Astrid and Tor in the ‘mørketid’—‘the time of darkness.’ The Last Whaler is a raw, beautiful novel you will not soon forget.”

—Tanya Whiton, author of Two for the Road

The Last Whaler reconciles the boundless beauty of the Arctic with a frozen hellscape of grief in this skillfully rendered story of a couple living and working at a whaling station on Svalbard, and struggling to survive the death of their son. Cynthia Reeves’s writing is riveting, evoking the shadowy boundary between physical and spiritual realms through such details as the lingering stench of trying blubber or the ghostly grace of a wedding gown. As suspenseful as it is profound, Reeves’s novel finds harmony in a perilous landscape that seeks balance between life and death, wonder and danger, joy and sorrow.”

—Elizabeth Mosier, author of Excavating Memory: Archaeology and Home

“While war rages in Europe, a beluga hunter sails Norwegian seas, taking his wife with him to distract her from mourning the death of their son. After seafaring adventures Jack London would have envied, they become stranded and must try to survive a long polar winter. The Last Whaler is gale-force with narrative and unforgettable images: a graveyard of whale bones, a fox embryo in formaldehyde, a polar bear scarfing down the last meat reserves stockpiled for humans. The prose is an overlap of ancient tales and modern insights, a meditation on the fleeting beauty of earthly love and existence, and an inquiry into how we best live with ourselves and other creatures.”

—Helen Klein Ross, author of The Latecomers, What Was Mine, and Making It