Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Friday's Harbor by Diane Hammond

The blurb:
It's been three years since Hannah the elephant departed the Max L. Biedelman Zoo and life is blissfully quiet for her friends in Bladenham; Sam has retired; Neva manages a doggie day are called Woof!; Harriet Saul has been fired; and newly-minted lawyer Truman Levy has been recruited to replace Harriet as the zoo's executive director.

Then Truman's aunt, an eccentric heiress looking for a pet project, finds just the thing: a killer whale stranded in Columbia who desperately needs a new home.  With the help of marine mammal expert Gabriel Jump, she strong-arms Truman into repurposing the zoo's never-used porpoise pool for Friday's rehabilitation.  Under Gabriel's watchful eye, and with a team of dedicated helpers, Friday begins to revive.

But not everyone believes Friday should remain in captivity.  And before Truman knows what to do about it, the Max L. Biedelman Zoo is under national scrutiny -- and controversy -- and Friday's Fate may no longer remain in their hands.

In Friday's Harbor, a killer whale in Bogota, Colombia is slowly wasting away in poorly maintained and inadequate facilities.  Known as "Viernes" the whale had been kept in captivity for years,  one of the most beloved inhabitants in the local marine park.  The years have taken their toll and Viernes  suffers with infections from a poor diet and the poor facilities until Ivy, a wealthy American visitor, decides to intervene.  The heiress works her magic,  reaches out to the new head of the Max L. Biedelman Zoo in Bladenham, Washington, and offers to pay the costs of relocation and subsidize Viernes's care if the zoo agrees to take him in.

The change is effected and Viernes is renamed Friday and is moved into the never used porpoise pool. The zoo hires marine mammal expert Gabriel Jump, and takes on as a volunteer Libertine, animal psychic with ties to radical animal rights groups.  The new head of the zoo, Truman, discovers that killer whales draw the public's imagination and attention.

Friday's arrival brings record numbers of visitors to the zoo.  Friday seems to connect with his many visitors on a visceral level.  Children, the elderly, even the sick seem to calm and communicate with Friday. But along with the affection of thousands of visitors, Friday's presence draws controversy to the zoo as activists petition for the whale's release.

We read about the day to day operations of the zoo and the unending labor involved in caring for a killer whale.  Though Friday's Harbor is a work of fiction, it addresses difficult issues regarding captivity and treatment of endangered animals with sensitivity and humor.  It's been years since I'd seen a killer whale but reading Friday's Harbor brought back my fascination with these awe inspiring creatures and a deeper appreciation of the complexity of the issues that accompany keeping animals healthy, both in captivity and in the wild.

  • ISBN-10: 0062124218 - Paperback $8.99
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 8, 2013), 352 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

  • About the Author:
  • Dianne Hammond is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Seeing Stars, Hannah's Dream, Going to Bend, and Homesick Creek.  She has worked as both a writer and an editor, and is the recipient of an Oregon Arts Commission literary fellowship.  She serves as a spokesperson for the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her husband and their three Pembroke Welsh corgis.
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