Date of Graduation


Document Type

UAF Access Only - Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (MFA)

Degree Level





Padma Viswanathan

Committee Member

Toni Jensen

Second Committee Member

Lissette Lopez Szwydky-Davis


This thesis contains the first five chapters (roughly the first half) of a novel told in linked stories; it is similar in form to Joan Silber's Ideas of Heaven, as well as Tommy Orange's There There.

The novel's opening chapter tells the story of a girl named Love Coffin on the island of Nantucket around the year 1730. In the course of this chapter, Love's sister Phoebe goes missing, and the chapters that follow chart what happens to Phoebe through a variety of perspectives and voices: a young sheep on the island, a Wampanoag woman named Dorcas Never, a baby sperm whale and her herd, and a band of mermaids living in a sea cave.

In allowing readers to trace Phoebe's journey through these various characters, this book explores lives that are often marginalized in literature, especially in novels that concern American whaling communities (consider Moby Dick: the story of a white man chasing a white whale). In this novel, too, readers will see a community in the early stages of what will become a whaling empire; in hearing from voices they don't normally hear from, they will perhaps reconsider the consequences of white settlement on Nantucket, of Quaker life, of 18th century whaling. This is a novel about the ways we live in close proximity, yet experience entirely different realities; about what it means to be a single part of a larger chain of being. Ultimately, it is my hope that this novel reconsiders what it means to look closely and fully at a historical moment.