The Whale Chaser
The Whale Chaser is the story of Vince Sansone, the eldest child and only son in a large Italian-American family, who comes of age in 1960s Chicago. A constant disappointment to his embittered father—a fishmonger who shows his displeasure with his fists—Vince finds solace by falling in love. Classmate Marie Santangelo, the neighborhood butcher's winsome daughter, entices him with passionate kisses and the prospect of entering her family's business. Yet he pursues Lucy Sheehan, an older girl with a reputation, who has also been victimized by the adults in her life.
When Vince abruptly flees Chicago he ends up in Tofino, a picturesque fishing town on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. He finds a job gutting fish, then is hired by Tofino's most colorful dealer, Mr. Zig-Zag, and joins the thriving marijuana trade. Ultimately, through his friendship with an Ahousaht native named Ignatius George, he finds his calling as a whale guide.
Vince must come to terms with the consequences of his own actions as well as his family's version of la storia segreta, the unspoken story of how his grandfather, like thousands of other Italians and Italian Americans, was evacuated from prohibited zones on the West Coast and, like hundreds of others, was interned in a prison camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Set in the turbulent decades of the Vietnam war and the drug and hippie counterculture, The Whale Chaser is a powerful story about the possibility of redemption.
-- Academy Chicago/Chicago Review Press jacket copy
"Ardizzone's latest novel stretches over decades and miles, from the crowded North Side of Chicago to the haunting waters of British Columbia. The book sends home the complicated, elusive beauty of the struggle toward self-comprehension—with insights as illuminating and breathtaking as a whale's sudden breach."
--- Angela Pneuman
"The Whale Chaser is a masterful merger of story and history, metaphor and metaphysics, explanation and confession. Ardizzone's eye, ear and recollection are incredible; the story is not merely set in Catholic Chicago in the 1960s or in the counter-culture haven of Vancouver Island in the 1970s, it recreates those places and times—idiom, states of mind, complexities of custom and religion and expectation and desperation. His precise language more than describes; it turns scenes of both violence and love into incredible experiences. And the voice of his character, Vince Sansone, is so note-perfect it is hard to remember this is fiction, not memoir. Vince's hard-won wisdom is so naturally expressed one hopes he is really out there, sailing with the whales, showing the tourists something that will take them out of themselves, if only for a moment."
--- David Bradley
"This lyrical, engaging novel is sensual, suspenseful, and full of crackling life. Tony
Ardizzone, above all, is a marvelous chronicler of the joys of being alive. There's plenty of peril too, and suspense, the human tragicomedy in all its nuanced complexity."
---- Christine Sneed
"A sumptuous and inspirational read....With The Whale Chaser Tony Ardizzone has achieved his masterpiece, and at the same time—off-handedly, with true sprezzatura—one of the two or three greatest novels ever of the Italian-American quandary."
--- John Domini
"The Whale Chaser begins and ends with a moment of transcendence.... Novelist Tony Ardizzone moves seamlessly between the pre-Vatican II American Midwest and Tofino, British Columbia, of the late 1970s....It is under these skies that Vincent seeks forgiveness from those he has wronged over the years. Some ignore him, while others react with anger. Yet this element of the novel is positively sacramental. Of forgiveness, Vincent wonders, 'Does life offer us any greater grace?' The Whale Chaser is a tale of a man’s continual chase for both self and soul."
--- U. S. Catholic
"Impressively well written from beginning to end, The Whale Chaser is a complex and deftly written novel that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf. Tony Ardizzone is an exceptional novelist and The Whale Chaser is very highly recommended."
--- Midwest Book Review