Review: Chasing at the Surface

Posted on September 7, 2016


chasing-at-the-surface cover

Chasing at the Surface
By Sharon Mentyka
WestWinds Press
October 2016
224 pages

By all appearances, 12-year old Marisa Gage leads an enviable life with her dad on a houseboat in Puget Sound where whale watching is as common as bird watching. But her mom has left for California for unexplained reasons leaving her broken-hearted. In the midst of Marisa’s doldrums during the fall chum salmon run, a pod of 19 orca whales shows up in nearby Dyes Inlet, presumably to feed on the abundant fish supply. Coincidentally these whales are known to whale researchers as the L pod, the same pod that Marisa and her mom spent a week watching 4 years earlier on a trip to the San Juan Islands. Marisa was even lucky enough to name one of the newborn calves, Muncher. As if she wasn’t missing her mom enough, Muncher and his mom Marina along with the rest of the L pod are swimming in her back yard and the one person she most wants to share the experience with is not there for her. Her self-pity is cut short when her science teacher takes on whale watching as a class project, allowing Marisa and her friends to skip school to assist the whale researchers with monitoring and tracking the whales. Based on a true story, as days turn into weeks and the salmon slowly run out, the whales remain clustered in the inlet and a cool school project turns into a race against the clock as it’s all hands on deck to save the whales.

Mentyka artfully weaves whale facts through this moving drama about family relationships and the natural world. Though what’s outstanding is Mentyka’s skill at immersing readers in Marisa’s wonderful sensory scenes with the whales that could only come from her own first-hand experience. The parallels between the plight of the whales and Marisa’s confusion and anger at her mom reinforce that the answers to all of life’s questions can be found in nature. Chasing at the Surface is an unforgettable adventure that takes readers along on a heart-pounding, up-close-and-personal encounter with a pod of powerful orcas. ~ Copyright (c) 2016 by Peggy Tibbetts


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Posted in: book review