Darwin’s Hornpipe

By Deirdre Kessler

Penumbra Press has released a new novel by Deirdre Kessler, Darwin’s Hornpipe.

“Cat o’ nine tails or overboard, McDonough.” 

So begins Deirdre Kessler’s novel, Darwin’s Hornpipe. After being accused of mutiny aboard the Morning Star, a whaling barque, Will McDonough does a jig on the Union Jack and is thrown overboard. He swims to an island in the Galápagos archipelago and is marooned. After his rescue, he seeks justice for Rafael, his Cofán-Ecuadorean friend who was co-accused by the barque’s captain and succumbed to a cruel flogging. A parallel narrative follows Will’s soulmate, Nixie Austin, whose missives to him depict her trek overland with a dog and companion donkeys from the California gold fields to Prince Edward Island, where she and Will eventually reunite. 

Set during the American Civil War, Kessler’s Darwin’s Hornpipe is loosely based on her great-grandfather’s actual whaling ship experience: he, too, was wrongly accused of mutiny and thrown overboard near one of the islands in the Galápagos archipelago. 

Kessler lives in Charlottetown, PEI. She is the author of more than two dozen books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry and is a former Poet Laureate of PEI.