Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Author Douglas Carlton Abrams Discovers Shocking Facts While Researching for Eye of the Whale

Today's guest blogger is Douglas Carlton Abrams. This author might sound familiar, as he had been a guest at The Book Connection in the past. We also reviewed his book, The Lost Diary of Don Juan. You can find that review here.

Douglas returns with his new ecological thriller, Eye of the Whale: A Novel.

This captivating novel is about a marine biologist whose fate is altered after the unexpected appearance of a humpback whale sends her on a race to discover the meaning of its mysterious song and its implications for human survival.

Elizabeth McKay is a dedicated scientist who has spent almost a decade cracking the code of humpback whale communication. Their song, the most complex in nature, may in fact reveal secrets about the animal world that no one could have imagined. When a humpback whale swims up the Sacramento River with a strange and unprecedented song, Elizabeth must decipher its meaning in order to save the whale and ultimately much more.

But as her work with the whale captures the media’s interest and the world’s imagination, many powerful forces emerge who do not want the whale’s secrets to be revealed. Soon, Elizabeth is forced to decide if her discoveries are worth losing her marriage, her career, and possibly her life.

As timely as today’s ecological challenges and as timeless as the whales themselves, this novel takes readers into the mysterious world of humpback whales and great white sharks. In writing Eye of the Whale, Abrams worked closely with leading scientists to uncover the shockingly true facts on which it is based. This powerful story will transform how readers see their relationship to other species and the fragile world in which we live.

I asked Douglas to share with us some of the shocking facts he discovered while performing the research for this book. Here's what he had to say:

While writing and researching my novel, Eye of the Whale, I was shocked and saddened to find that truth was in fact stranger than fiction. So many of us have a general sense that we are destroying the environment and that this is having grave consequences for human health, but we really don’t know what is happening. I wanted to try to put the puzzle pieces together. To find out why breast and prostate cancer is going up, why leukemia in children has risen by 62% and brain cancer by 40%, why infertility is rising, and how this relates to the overall health of the animal world.

I learned so many shocking things: I learned that we have created 80,000 new chemicals and that very few of these have ever been tested for their effects on humans or the environment, that many of these are being produced in quantities in excess of millions of pounds per year. Most shocking, I discovered that a recent study of umbilical chord blood of children found that these newborn children already had 413 toxic industrial chemicals in their blood—before they took their first breath. We are literally conducting an unprecedented experiment using the health of our children and that they are coming into the world pre-polluted.

I found out that scientists have discovered that minute quantities, in the parts per billion can have dramatic effects on people's bodies. But perhaps two of the most staggering facts that I found out were about the animal world. Beluga whales that wash up dead in the remote Hudson Bay are so polluted with chemicals that they must be treated like toxic waste. Closer to home, eighty percent of the male small mouth bass in the Potomac—the same water that people drink in Washington, D.C.—have eggs. That’s right, males having eggs. Now that’s shocking.

In the end, I also found out some extremely hopeful things. I found out that much of the disease and suffering that we thought was inevitable is actually man-made and therefore can be ended if we make different decisions. We and the environment are not doomed…yet.

You can read sample chapters of Eye of the Whale via by clicking here.

Douglas Carlton Abrams is a former editor at the University of California Press and HarperSanFrancisco. Abrams writes fact-based fiction that tells an exciting story while at the same time changing the world we live in. His first book, The Lost Diary of Don Juan, has been published in thirty countries around the world and was recently optioned for film.

Doug is also the co-founder of Idea Architects, a book and media development agency that works with visionary scientists, scholars, and spiritual leaders to create a wiser, healthier, and more just world. Abrams has collaborated with a number of the world’s great scholars, scientists, and moral leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, best-selling author John Robbins, primatologist Frans De Waal, and astrophysicist Joel Primack. If you want to find out more about Doug, his life, and his literature, please visit

Check out The Friendly Book Nook's review of Eye of the Whale here. On Thursday, Douglas will be stopping at A Bookish Mom.

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