I'm also not sure whether Naslund is giving Melville the bird, or trying to salvage his Ahab. It is true that she has taken a very few passages in Moby Dick about this character and fleshed a completely new one for this story, but she has also done the same for Ahab, and as a result he doesn't appear to so remote, unhinged and ruthless as he does in Moby Dick. I think if there were about 200 less pages, this might be easier to discern.
As it is, it is easy to get lost in a morass of very worthy writing. A few less pages and more directness in the characters' voices and the narrative may have given the story a much lighter feel in significant places. Unfortunately, as it is, I found it difficult to find the motivation to give this story the attention it probably warranted. While I as the reader must bear some responsibility for that, the writer also needs to accept their part in that.
So while I feel that the writing deserved four stars at times, at other times I felt like I was being overly generous giving it 3 stars; so 3 stars it is.