Summary: Hudson Catalina has given up. Having lost both breasts to cancer, she is emotionally and physically exhausted, no longer willing to endure the nausea and crushing weakness that chemotherapy causes. Until the wrecked-by-life young Buddy Baker arrives, bent on murder. Linda Merlino's harrowing, touching story of despair, abuse, murder and survival takes you on a journey through the darkest places of the human mind and spirit, and in the end leads you back out of "the belly of the whale" enriched by the experience. -- Kunati Books
I can't exactly say why I was drawn to BELLY OF THE WHALE by Linda Merlino after I read the publisher's summary; but for some reason, I thought it sounded like an interesting book. I can basically sum up the book in one word -- INTENSE!
From the first few pages of this book, I was drawn into Hudson Catalina's story. She is a mother of four who is battling breast cancer -- she has pretty much lost hope and has decided to quit her chemotherapy treatments. In addition, she has a ton of baggage from losing her mother to this same disease when she was a child. This is going to sound awful, but I had a difficult time relating to this character. I definitely felt a tremendous amount of compassion for Hudson, but she was so incredibly pessimistic and bitter that I had a hard time accepting her. I can't say that I wouldn't have had the same feelings that Hudson did if I were in her shoes, yet the story was just do dark and depressing to me. I just wanted her to fight for her life for her family's sake.
Fortunately for the reader, she eventually realizes how valuable her life is and she decides to not give up on living. Unfortunately for Hudson, she has to be part of a hostage situation with a crazy murderer before she comprehends this. While trapped in the store with two very likable characters, Hudson's character changes from feeling sorry to herself to deciding that she wants to survive this horrendous situation. I think that she saw the inherent goodness in these two people and realizes that life is worth living!
The author is extremely good at making the reader uncomfortable while reading this story. The first part of the book dealt with Hudson's cancer and her inability to deal with it. I definitely think the author did a good job of developing Hudson's character in this section as well as explaining the horrors of cancer and chemo. She was so vivid in her descriptions of the illness that it was almost as if the cancer was another character in the story. In addition, she does a terrific job of creating a sense of unease with the hostage scenes in grocery store.
BELLY OF THE WHALES does have a lot of intense (here's that word again) and suspenseful moments. I don't want to give the ending away, but I will say that there is a major twist at the end of the book. If you are looking for a quick read (the book is less than 200 pages) that will take you on a roller coaster of emotions, you might want to give BELLY OF THE WHALE a try.