Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Whale Song"

Cheryl Kaye Tardif is a freelance writer, TV, movie and book critic and the bestselling author of three novels set in Canada: Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Whale Song (featured last year on My Book, The Movie), and she reported the following:
I've heard many different numbers used--page 30, 40, 50 and 69 being the most popular. I sometimes think I should plot them out more carefully, but when it comes down to it, I never know which part of my novel will show up on these pages. So it is a reward (and a relief) when I discover these pages hold something captivating, as in Whale Song's page 69. The story's narrator is young Sarah Richardson, who has left behind her best friend in the US and moved to an isolated town on Vancouver Island, Canada. Sarah's world changes from rolling fields to the mysterious ocean, native Indians, fascinating legends and a terrible secret. On page 69, Sarah is with her mother and father in a research schooner. They're hoping to see the majestic killer whales that Sarah is so drawn to and her father is teasing her, pretending to be a shark. The scene opens, and if music were to accompany it, you'd hear the familiar Jaws movie theme music.

"Da...dum. Da...dum. Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum!"

It was a good thing I hadn't seen the movie Jaws back then or I would have been petrified of the ocean.

That night, after we left the harbor, we bought burgers and fries at Myrtle's and took them home to eat. While my father and I wolfed ours down, my mother picked at hers.

"Aren't you hungry?" my father asked.

My mother shook her head. "I'm tired, Jack. I think I'll go to bed early."

I watched her, thinking her behavior seemed odd. My mother was a night owl, often painting until the wee hours of the morning. She rarely went to bed before midnight.

"Good night, Mom," I said.

Halfway up the stairs, she lurched to a stop.

My father pursed his lips. "Dani, are you okay?"

She turned slightly, her face an insipid gray. Her mouth moved, but I didn't hear a sound, except the clatter of my fork as it hit my plate.

"Dani?" My father's voice trembled with fear.

I swear that from that moment on everything moved in slow motion. My father pushed himself away from the table, just as my mother tumbled down the stairs and landed with a thud on the rug below.
"Oh God," he moaned, calling her name repeatedly.

He reached her side, knelt by her body and felt for a pulse. In a flash, he scooped her into his arms and strode to the door.

"Sarah!" he yelled over his shoulder. "Get in the car!"

I followed him outside and stood motionless while he draped my mother across the back seat. When he slammed the door, I climbed in front, terrified by his intense expression. He jumped in beside me, revved the engine and the car squealed out of the driveway.

"Daddy, what's wrong with her?" I asked tearfully.

His face went rigid and the muscle in his jaw clenched. "I'm not sure, Honey-Bunny. We'll take her to the hospital where the doctor can examine her." His eyes darted behind him. "Dani, can you hear me?"
Read an excerpt from Whale Song, and visit Cheryl Kaye Tardif's website and the official Whale Song site.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue