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Literature / People of the Whale

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People of the Whale is a novel by American author Linda Hogan. Released in 2008, the book revolves around Thomas Just, a traumatized Vietnam veteran who returns to his home in a Native American reservation in the present day to find that it has become in conflict. Thomas must choose between his life in the reservation or his life in Vietnam. The A'atsika Tribe live near Washington, and they worship the whale and the octopus. Upon his return, Thomas is made to partake in a whale hunt, which ends disastrously. Thomas feels guilty about his past and the deaths he caused, and searches for redemption. Author Linda Hogan used her Chickasaw roots as inspiration.


People of the Whale provides examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: There's a character called Witka and a character called Dick Russell, and they live on the same reservation.
  • Children Are Innocent: One of the messages that Hogan tries to clobber you with. Marco Polo is innocent, the children Thomas prevents his platoon from killing in Vietnam are innocent, really all children featured are portrayed as being innocent.
  • Colon Cancer: Many of the chapter titles have this, most notably "D.O.A: Department of the Army: Rooms". Yes, this is a real chapter title.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Marco Polo seems to be set up to be a major character. Then, halfway through the book, he dies.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Ruth moves on from Thomas and gets together with Dick Russell.
  • Magical Realism: Ruth was born with gills, and can communicate telepathically. Witka and the Old Ones have special powers. Thomas and Witka can both breathe underwater for a very long time. Finally and most importantly, Thomas dies and gets resurrected. It's never explained how any of this happens, distinguishing it from Urban Fantasy.
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  • Meaningful Name: Marco Polo, although he's named after the explorer, also has the name of a popular pool game where breathing underwater would lead to a major advantage. His parents can both breathe underwater for an unnaturally long time, and would do very well in a game of Marco Polo. In an ironic twist, Marco Polo dies by having his head held underwater until he drowns.
  • Precision F-Strike: Several occur throughout the book, most notably shortly after the botched whale hunt, and when Thomas confronts Dwight.
  • Present Tense Narrative: Large parts are written in Present Tense Narrative, but Linda Hogan switches tenses as frequently as most people blink.
  • Symbolic Blood: Thomas's blood is described as being like "crimson dresses".
  • Title Drop: The book's title, as well as pretty much all the chapter titles that don't have colons in them.
  • Unfriendly Fire: After realizing Thomas's strike team has landed in the wrong spot and that Thomas's platoon has begun to kill innocent children, Thomas kills his own men.


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