Book review: Farewell Mr. Puffin: A Small Boat Voyage to Iceland

December 2021

Farewell Mr. Puffin: A Small Boat Voyage to Iceland
by Paul Heiney, Adlard Coles, 2021, 256pp, $16.99

Review by Albert J. Mann
For Points East

Heiney may be on the lookout for Puffins, but to the great joy of readers, he sees so much more.

Sailing from his home on the eastern coast of England in his ship, Wild Song, our captain sets out for the rugged shores of Iceland. Along the way, we are introduced to his many first mates: the silent-but-sure Ant, the laugh-out-loud Malcolme, Alan Bucket-Filler, the Lad and others. But the star of this book should be the Puffin. And for Heiney, the black and white seabird with the bright orange beak is certainly a star.

This reader never tired of the narrator’s Puffin search, his Puffin details, nor his Puffin admiration. However, the real charm found in “Farewell Mr. Puffin” is the writer himself – his warm sense of humor, insights into local culture and history, and his indefatigable cheery outlook in the face of thick fog, choppy seas, and swirling tides. Captain Heiney waxes poetic on subjects as wide-reaching as Scandinavian cuisine, Orkney Isles diners, the personalities of ferries, and 16th century Swedish writers. The key word being poetic. Here is Heiney sailing away from the Faroe Islands.

“The landscape of the diminishing islands occupied us for most of that day: the sculptural quality of the mountains, the precision of the sheer cliff faces as if split with the sharpest of chisels, like the work of a diamond cutter; the dappling of the light, all creating the impression that these chunks of rock were hewn through the efforts of a delicate artist.”

Throughout the trip, the striped-beak preacher does not wander far from our captain’s mind. And he keeps up his diligent search for his beloved Puffin. Does he finally lay eyes on the bird we’ve heard so much about?

I’m not telling.

J. Albert Mann is a disability activist, an award-winning poet and the author of eight published novels for children. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults and is the Partner Liaison for the WNDB Internship Grant Committee. She lives on a little fishing boat in the Boston Harbor with her first mate, Marcella, a ginger tabby.