Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett

Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett

Summer is the perfect time to read a book that is light and easy. However, I usually don’t like too light and easy. So Rush Oh! fit the bill. It is a pleasant story with substance.

The pleasant part tells the story of a young woman, Mary Davidson, coming of age as she manages the household of her younger siblings and her father, master whaler George “Fearless” Davidson.

The substance, for me, is the rich setting—a whaling community in 1908 Australia. Though this is a work of fiction, it is based on real events and the author includes excerpts from the local newspaper at the time. Though I was hesitant to read this book because of the topic of whaling, the preface drew me in—a short excerpt about the Killer Whales of Twofold Bay, “Tom, Hooky, Humpy and Cooper…just as much friends to the whaling crews as the cattle dog to the drover; just about as much, if not a little more so.” I had to keep reading because I’d never had any idea killer whales played a role in whaling, and I wanted to learn more. Despite my earlier hesitancy, it is the whaling scenes I ended up loving most.

On the first page, Mary describes her house near the try-works (what are those? I wondered)—“The towering rib cage of a ninety-foot blue whale sat amidst a winter display of jonquils; my father had had the men haul it closer to the house that he might contemplate its grandeur while enjoying his evening pipe.” Rush Oh! gets its name from the call of a whaler when a whale is spotted, alerting the others to grab their gear and get in the boat.

These and plenty of other noteworthy details blend to form a clear picture in my mind of this community of whalers, and I’m happy to know them.


Jessica Null Vealitzek is a writer near Chicago. Her debut novel, The Rooms Are Filled, was published by She Writes Press in April 2014. She can be found online at her web site, on Facebook, and on Twitter.


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