Fiction for Adults
McDonough's Hornpipe is a novel set in whaling days. The action takes place across several seas and two continents, from New Bedford, Massachusetts, to the Galápagos and Ecuador, California, Baltimore, and, finally, Prince Edward Island. A young seaman, Will McDonough, and his Ecuadorean friend, Manuel, have been falsely accused of mutiny by the captain of the whaling barque, The Morning Star. Manuel is flogged to death and Will is given a choice of flogging with cat o' nine tails or to be thrown overboard in the sea several miles from a Galápagos island. The novel is an account of Will's stranding, his rescue, and his pursuit of the captain, and is also the story of Will's growing awareness of injustices both to fellow humans and to other species, especially the whales he once hunted with exhilaration and zeal.
McDonough's Hornpipe is also the parallel story of Nixie Austin, whom Will meets the month before he sets out whaling. Their friendship unfolds in letters to Will written by Nixie and in Will's journal and in his letters to her. Nixie has determined to join the rush for gold in California, and disguises herself a man in order to find working passage to California. She is disappointed by the reality of gold mining, as she has arrived after the first rush when early fortunes were possible. In the company of her newfound companions, four donkeys, Nixie treks overland back to the east coast, where she takes work as a seamstress in Baltimore. It is here the two friends are reunited.