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Lopez author’s orca novel wins national award

Lopez author’s orca novel wins national award

“Beyond the Human Realm,” Lopez resident Gene Helfman’s novel about a captive killer whale released into the wild, won the 2022 National Indie Excellence Award for Animal Fiction.

The story chronicles the life of Makai, a male killer whale captured in the North Atlantic and held in a marine park until he became a liability. Makai is slated for euthanasia but is rescued and rehabilitated by a whale biologist and others, including a runaway Native teenager with Orca Clan roots. Together they work to unite Makai with J Pod of the Southern Resident Killer Whales.

The novel builds on concepts developed in films such as Free Willy, The Cove and Blackfish, as well as J35/Tahlequa’s 17-day grief tour bearing her dead calf. The novel achieved finalist status in three other literary fiction competitions.

The National Indie Excellence® Awards, in their 16th year, recognize self-publishers and independent presses “that produce the highest quality books based on superior written content coupled with excellent presentation in all facets of the final published product… [representing] the best and brightest talent… in contemporary independent publishing and today’s self-published authors.

“Beyond the Human Realm” is available at local bookstores and through major online services. Proceeds from sales are donated to orca conservation.