When a container fell from a ship in the North Pacific, it unleashed not just a cargo of supremely charismatic flotsam - nearly 29,000 plastic bath toys, including more than 7,000 bright yellow ducks - but also an obsessive quest about their fate by the then teacher and aspiring journalist Donovan Hohn.
Moby-Duck chronicles that quest, including discovering whether a combination of ocean currents and dumb luck enabled the bath toys to make their way through the fabled but now ice-depleted North West Passage, a journey that had, for centuries, repeatedly defeated Europe's finest explorers.
Hohn involves himself deeply in his story, describing his own life path as much as that of the wayward bath toys. But for all the praise lavished on Moby Duck, it is often excruciatingly overwritten. It only begins to work well when the author finally reverts to a more simple narrative and the actual story of Hohn's multiple journeys in search of the path and survivors of the toy spill begins to shine.