“Rush Oh! is an elegiac tale, recounting the dissolution of both the whaling outfit and the Davidson clan. But Mary’s voice is so fresh and Ms. Barrett’s sidewinding story so spry and amusing that readers will think less of endings than of the auspicious start to a novelist’s career.
The beauty of Rush Oh! lies in her decision to pick up a harpoon and then set it down. She perceives both the dignity of the whales and the complexity of the human quest to survive and thrive. For whom do we root? It's complicated.
Despite his promising back story, Beck is a disappointingly two-dimensional character, and the tepid romance between Beck and Mary reads at times like a pastiche of Jane Austen ... It’s in the whaling scenes that Rush Oh! comes to life. These episodes are vigorous and emotionally complex, and Barrett uses the collaboration between men and orcas to explore the moral ambiguities of the hunt, which represents a livelihood for both.