In The Tourist Trail, by John Yunker, the author writes in a simple style that in the first pages led me to fear a facile and predictable plot. The Tourist Trail is, after all, a love story, one between a self-effacing biologist, Angela Haynes, involved in penguin research and a rather flamboyant anti-whaling activist, code-named Aeneas. Not too far into the book, I was appreciating the simple style more as clean and spare, and the love story had become two (or maybe more: Haynes’ love for the penguin Diesel was for me one of the most poignant parts of the story.)
The unexpected twists and layers could probably have supported a far longer book. Yunker’s own trip as a volunteer for a penguin census inspired The Tourist Trail, and the book may in turn arouse concern for the evidently enchanting smaller and less well-known penguin species. Nonetheless, I feel that educational opportunities were lost, especially on the subject of the whaling crisis, where so much more could have been said without coming across as either mawkish or didactic. (Warning for the sensitive: skip pages 147 and 148, which recount a particularly disturbing instance of animal cruelty that I cannot help but feel was misplaced, even as the explanation for one of the character’s later life of service.) All in all, this book was a keeper.