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The Tourist Trail: A Novel Paperback – 7 Jul 2010
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"Throughout the book, the passions and sincerity of animal advocates are captured with immense respect...Ultimately, the novel provides insight to the lives of animal activists, and shows the dangers-to activists themselves-of standing up for animals. The narrative also demonstrates the importance of fighting for justice for animals within the bounds of the law in a moving show of compassion for all those who advocate for animals." - Animal Legal Defense Fund
"What's impressive about this novel [is that] it occupies so much literary territory. It is at once a romance, an adventure story, an environmental polemic, and a keen study of just how animalistic humans are...It is a reader's pleasure, due in large part to the meticulous control with which Yunker commands his language." -Phoebe Literary Journal
"This immensely readable and exciting novel brings together the seemingly disjointed lives of characters who share a common thread: whether they know it or not, their purpose is to be devoted to the cause of helping animals...The Tourist Trail is epic, sprawling and strikingly cinematic." -Our Hen House
About the Author
John Yunker is a writer of short stories, novels, and plays. The Tourist Trail began as a short story by the same name and won the Phoebe Journal 2010 Fiction Prize. His full-length play Meat the Parents was a finalist in the 2014 Centre Stage New Plays Festival and 2015 AACT New Plays Contest semi-finalist. His one-act play Little Red House was published in the literary journal Mason's Road, and produced in 2014 by the Studio Players Theatre in Lexington, Kentucky. He is editor of the anthology Among Animals: The Lives of Animals and Humans in Contemporary Short Fiction and is co-founder of Ashland Creek Press, a publisher devoted to environmental and animal rights literature.
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Inter alia, two different methods of conservation are brought into focus: the rather bleak life of the naturalist who counts, tags and avoids emotional contact with Chinstrap Penguins, and the rather bleak life of the saboteurs who put their own boats between whales and other marine life and the big factory fishing ships. I've used `rather bleak' for both cohorts, which might make you think this will lead to a `rather bleak' book, but it is far from that. It is immensely thought-provoking - would you drop out of your life and run away to save whales? And the characters who inhabit this unusual novel are so well drawn and so nuanced that you feel yourself swayed first one way then the other, vis a vis the running away/whale Thing, by their emotions, lack thereof, or attempts to keep same under control.
It is all set in the coldest places of the world. Usually a turn-off for me. But the heat generated by the pace of the book, through its good plot and the complex characters inhabiting it, more than made up for that.
My only caveat was within the chapter headings named for the character whose point of view we were about to experience. This is usually a good plan (one I've used myself), but here a cheat is introduced, in that sometimes one of the points of view is an alias. Not fair!
That apart, one can only hope this book is picked up by a mainstream publisher and given the circulation it deserves.
The story is certainly on the side of environmentalism and is brutal on occasions in its depiction of the damage being done to marine life but it is not a rant and different characters engage with the theme of the book in different ways. Rather than leaving you angry about the situation it creates a sense of sadness. The eco-terrorists are not always portrayed as particularly noble but their cause is seen by some characters, although not all, as worth dying for. I certainly found myself thinking seriously about the issues raised in the book after I had finished reading it.
What makes this book so good, however, is the way it is written. The author uses a lyrical style which makes the book very easy and enjoyable to read. I found that each character study was different and that I could enter into the thoughts of the individual people and understand why they seemed to be swept along with events and to make the decisions which they did.
A thoughtful book, beautifully written, with engaging characters which will keep you thinking about the issues long after you have finished reading.
The tourist trail in question is Patagonia, where cruise ships stop to let tourists take photos of themselves with the penguins.
There are a variety of people in this story; Robert, an FBI agent with tragedy in his past, Aeneas, an eco-terrorist. Angela, a scientist who "counts" penguins, Annie and Ethan, a lonely geek. All of these are linked in a tale of love and saving the world.
There is love, action, pain, adventure. A very enjoyable book.
The theme of environmental damage is skilfully woven throughout the book; facts and emotions are mixed together and the character’s reactions are believable. One choice in particular that Angela makes, could have in a less competent author’s hands been a gendered cliche. But Yunker portray’s Angela’s sense of loss and building rage in a way that consumes you and pulls you into her struggle.
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