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On Whale Island: Notes from a Place I Never Meant to Leave
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On Whale Island: Notes from a Place I Never Meant to Leave

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  211 ratings  ·  41 reviews
After Daniel Hays and his father built a twenty-five-foot boat and sailed it around Cape Horn, he thought he'd finally put his wanderlust to rest. He went back to school, bought a house, took a job, got married.

But as it turned out, in the real world Daniel Hays felt lost. So he took his love for the sea and his need to escape civilization and pushed it further: he bought
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 31st 2002 by Algonquin Books (first published January 1st 2002)
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3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  211 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Dec 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Hays moves his family to a secluded island in Canada in order to escape the modern world, which he feels pushes people away from what is really important: man's relationship with nature. Hays' wife and stepson accompany him to the island and together they have a modern Swiss Family Robinson type of adventure. Hays is sometimes amazingly inept, and it seems that only luck saves him from disaster. Throughout the memoir, there are small snippets of the diaries kept by Wendy (Hays' wife) and Stephan ...more
Jun 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-books
I liked it, daring change of lifestyle for one year and maybe worth then time spent.
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Pretty good. I certainly agree with checking out and doing what's good for you because the reality is "running around after little pieces of green paper" is a waste of time. Do you know anyone who is really successful but doesn't have a moment to spare for their family or friends ? I do and despite all they have I don't envy them in the least.

I really admired Stephen and his reading list. I hadn't read many of those books until I was in my 30's and 40's and I am envious of someone who did si whe
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
The writing is strong - poetic at times - but the author seems like such a colossal jerk that I just couldn’t give this a five star rating.
Ant Atoll
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I didn't want it to end. The author lays out his family's tale in a very conversational style, making it easy to access their experiences.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it liked it
It wasn't fantastic and at times I felt that he was perhaps the ugly step-parent he feared he was, but it kept me interested enough to read quickly.
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! One of the few that I know will read again; along with the author's other book.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I had high hopes for this, because of my cold weather island obsession. I'm discovering that people moving to an uninhabited island is not so interesting. I believe Daniel Hays believes himself to be a modern-day Thoreau, particularly since he quotes him at the beginning of almost every chapter, but while he includes supposed journal entries, they are more chronological than thoughtful. We did this, and then the dogs did this. And then there was the time this happened.

Sigh, boring. Halfway thro
Margo Brooks
Aug 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: autobiography
I really enjoyed this account of a normal family who, needing a break, decide to live alone on a small island in Nova Scotia for a year. There isn't anything romantic about this book. The author discusses everything he does wrong. He recounts the problems that develop from being cramped together far from others, his wife's longing for other human company, the trials and successes of home schooling, even his own struggle with manic depression. There is nothing heavy or incredibly beautiful about ...more
Oct 24, 2009 rated it liked it
The author of “My Old Man and the Sea” (an account of a sailing trip around the world with his father) now writes about the year that he, his wife, and 11-year-old stepson spent on a remote island off the coast of Nova Scotia. Hays had bought the island some years before, and he and his father had built a house there. The new family drives from Idaho to Nova Scotia, and it takes three boatloads for them to carry everything they need from the mainland to the island. This includes everyday needs s ...more
Marla Sommer
Apr 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I have read this year! While I was reading this book I kept thinking about one of my favorite childrens books called "Do you dare?" a berenstain bear book. This is the journal of a man who bought an island off the coast of Nova Scotia and moved his wife and stepson from Idaho to the island for a year. All you married couples out there would you dare? How about all of you who have interactions with pre-teen children, would you dare? I found myself laughing out loud with this ...more
Daniel Brown
May 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed in this book. I thought the idea of living alone on an island with the family for a year in a small house that Hays built would be pretty exciting. But he was going to town frequently for supplies or to go hang out with friends,etc., just took away from it. A good percentage of the writing was his inner thoughts and diary about what was going on with his feelings. Sure, there were some funny moments, but I was looking for more action here. Hays came across as kind of selfish t ...more
Listened to this on unabridged audio cassette. The trouble with listening while driving is it's impossible to jot down all the interesting quotations and observations that I'd like to preserve and it's too much trouble to rewind later to find them. I loved some of his philosophy such as needing to be away from people occasionally to recharge and regain his sanity. Loved this story of uprooting his family and making a home on an isolated little island without any amenities. Some humor and lots t ...more
Apr 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
I got lucky with this one. I picked it up at some old bookstore randomly because of the title, and it turned out to be a great read. Written entirely in journal entries of the author and a few by his wife and step-son, it follows the family's adventures living on a remote island off Nova Scotia for a year. The situations they find themselves in are hilarious, the scenery gorgeous, and the book entertaining but down to earth. I'd recommend it to anyone who has ever wanted to escape society for a ...more
Melody Warnick
Dec 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
The guy’s got issues, not the least example of which is that he hauls his new wife and 11-year-old stepson to the remote Nova Scotian island he owns, where they live in a shack for a year. No electricity, no refrigerator, heated by a wood-burning stove (they chopped the wood), and a 7-mile boat ride to shore. But it was engaging to think about being that self-sufficient, exchanging TV for books, living in touch with the cycles of nature. An interesting adventure.
I wanted to like this book. The idea of the author and his family moving to a relatively remote island for a year sounded intriguing. And the memoir is brutally honest about the author and his life. But I just didn't like him much and found myself mostly thinking, "Oh, grow up already. Stop whining about how you don't want to live in society, don't want to get a job, etc." I feel a little harsh for disliking this memoir for this reason, but I just didn't get it.
Mar 08, 2016 rated it liked it
I liked this story about a man and a new wife who brought along a son to spend a year on an island off the coast of eastern Canada. I generally enjoy these books about the sea and living in seclusion and this one was on par with others I've read in this genre. The other is not always very likeable and doesn't seem suited to his chosen partner but the story really revolves around the connection he makes with his new stepson.
Penny Bolton
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very fun read. It's a true story about a family who spends a year on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. It counts through the days and tells about all the antics and adventures that they experience...a man with his wife, a 12-year-old stepson, and their two dogs. I hated to see it end. I like it enough to order another book written by the author and his father.
Jan 11, 2013 rated it liked it
I listened to this CD. The reader sounded spookily like a man I know who makes similar puerile comments. I liked the survival aspects of the book and the creativity and ingenuity required to live for a year on a remote island. I guess father and son both grew in this year, but I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to say "matured".
Nov 11, 2015 rated it liked it
I listened to it on tape driving from Mass. to DC. I enjoyed hearing his account of a year on a desolate island with his wife and son. It certainly reinforced how strong the human spirit can be when forced with privation and need to survive (even though they were just a boat trip away from civilization). A good story.
Living on your own private island....sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Add your new spouse for companionship. Still good. And don't forget your 11 year old stepson.

Daniel Hays lived on Whale Island for a year, alone but for his family, occasional visitors and trips to the mainland. Sometimes humorous, seemingly honest, this year went fast for Daniel -- and also for me.
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
An unusual diary-like chronicle of his family's year on an isolated Nova Scotia island. Yielded some interesting quotes such as: "TV is a clump of perverted perceptions, and most of us arrange our living rooms around it, and worship it." -page 34. Authentic, sometimes weird, but it held my interest.
Harriet Lobascio
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
The focus of this book intrigued me. Oh, to just really get away. I totally enjoyed the stories of how this family handled all that faced them, some issues were hilarious. But sadly they seemed to need to re-enter society Such a shame
Ann Moriarty
I loved his first book, My Old Man and the Sea and gave it to some of my students as a graduation present. I probably enjoyed it more than they did, but I am hoping they kept it for a future read. This one is about him "almost all grown up" and it was fun to follow him.
Susie Rangel
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this one. For those who fantasize about living off the grid, Hays tells it like it is, the joys and challenges equally weighted. I connected with his love, respect and yearning for the sea.
Mar 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Good book if you like the sea. A true story of how a man and his family survive for a year on an Island that he purchased. It is more like a diary than a story. But with some interesting facts. Again, some of the language is more earthy, but didn't keep me from enjoying the 'scenery'.
Oct 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. It transported me to a place I wanted more of. The author is so candid with his emotions that one can feel a kinship with him. The humor is very open and belies a vulnerability many men would not share so openly.
Mar 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
a great first person account of a man and his family who move to an island for a year. that aren't exactly living off the land, but they're living simply and with his great sense of humor, his stories made me smile and laugh and cry.
Jun 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction-read
What happens to all those ADHD kids in school? They marry incredibly understanding women and buy their own island. They spend a year on an island with no running water, electricity, or anything that they don't manufacture themselves. I couldn't, wouldn't, or enable this.
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
The author of this book is kind-of nuts. Well, he is nuts, but he is a great writer. It definitely made me think about whether or not I could live in those conditions (and stay married!) for a year. Quick read.
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“When I sit up I am greeted by the world. Level with the treetops I look down on sparrows swooping in and out of the branches. The tide, the new rising moon, the clouds, the wind - these greet me. These are my allies. The whole planet is laid out before me and available for whatever adventure the day will take me on.
By comparison, living in society seems to require an alarm clock. Primarily assembled from angst and fish anuses, these contraptions, regardless of your soul's whereabouts, will slap and assault you into a pitiful state of what passes for consciousness. Your first sight is the Time, an arragement of molecules on the clock's face to whom you will be enslaved for the rest of the day. You may as well call him "master." Next, a pile of dirty clothes on the floor, a knocked-over glass of water, and so forth, until you are so overwhelmed with despair that to prevent hurling yourself through the window, you must ignore your personal bill of rights, put on an acceptable frown, and go about your business, disregarding the pleas from you increasingly timid soul.”
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