I recently picked up a new novel by Brian Doyle, and enjoyed the lyrical writing so very much. “The Plover” is like nothing that I have read before, and was an absolute delight. I recommended it to many friends. Then I decided to read it again, and saw even more in it the second time around.
On the surface, it is about a man who takes his sturdy little boat out on a solo voyage across the Pacific Ocean, without a definite goal or itinerary in mind. He ends up picking up an unusual crew, and has many adventures. As a plot outline, it doesn’t seem too promising, but don’t let this fool you. It is simply beautifully written, and a joy to read, with far deeper meaning than the bare outline of the plot.
For me, it was a piece of literary mental imagery, offering a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, almost like a sort of iconography in a sense.
I saw Mr. Doyle’s ocean as a metaphor for the Kingdom of God, with all of its unknowable secrets and mystery within a very real presence. It was filled with life and wonder and unexpected grace.
The boat is named The Plover, and is piloted by a bitter, faithless man determined to live his life alone and unencumbered. Sailing along without a definite goal, the boat’s occupants become a community unto itself with all sorts of travelers, so close to heaven yet unable to fathom it despite consulting of charts and sharing of acquired knowledge. It skirted along the outside edge of God’s Kingdom, catching glimpses of beauty and awesomeness, yet mostly remaining outside.
The community onboard was a gathering together of the lost, the angry, the broken, the grieving, the profane, the marginalized, the unnoticed and the outcast, as well as the pure, the loving, and the strong, with every individual having both dark and light within themselves. There was much joy, song, interaction, kindness and mercy shown.
All of creation was embraced and took part in the voyage. There was even a prophet of sorts. Everywhere and every day miracles happen, transformations of the heart and soul occur, and mystery is simply accepted for itself.
I’d love to hear your insights into this book, if you have read it.