Each Tuesday we’ll be posting a review about one of Academy Chicago’s recently published books! This one is for a novel by Tony Ardizzone, called The Whale Chaser:

Tony Ardizzone’s, The Whale Chaser, is many things—a coming-of-age novel one of them. Ardizzone’s novel navigates falling in love, sex, and growing up in the tumultuous 1960s of Chicago through the perspective of protagonist and narrator Vince Sansone. Told in a most straightforward manner, this story shows the hard realities of growing up and trying to be the person others expect. As one of the girls Vince Sansone encounters, Harmony, says: “What we do to kids as they get older simply reduces them, you know, bit by bit by bit, wearing them down like a lead pencil pushed into one of those metal sharpeners hanging on a classroom wall.”

What sets apart Vince is his quiet care about doing what is right, in the midst of those who don’t and within an era that values what is detached and carefree. Yet he cannot help but find himself making mistakes, getting hurt and hurting the ones he loves. With a compulsion to keep order in an incontrollable world ruled by chaos, Vince is haunted by his history and mistakes. With a deep desire to protect whatever feels pure, he grows more and more cynical with each experienced loss and begins to believe that “The world never leaves a new place alone… Once a new place is discovered, it’s ruined.” Vince Sansone’s journey is one of self-redemption, moving away from his past in search of a place that makes some kind of orderly sense.

Ardizzone not only knows how to write a breath-taking sentence, he also understands people; the complexities of love and sex are not skimmed over for the sake of a tidy picture of a beautiful sunset, but are presented in the most bare way– letting the reader explore each character and what their loyalties or betrayals say about them and humanity. Heartbreaking yet compassionate, his novel takes the reader on a journey toward acceptance and the rightness of the natural universe. The Whale Chaser encompasses but ultimately transcends a coming-of-age novel, a love story, and 1960s period fiction in its exploration of the human experience, of fate and free will, of learning when to let go.~Rachel