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The Fisherman's Son by Michael Koepf

The Fisherman's Son

by Michael Koepf

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This was a gripping book about family and self-discovery. I liked how Neil learned that while his father had flaws, he still had important lessons to impart. ( )
  krin5292 | May 3, 2012 |
A largely unnoticed little gem. This is not the biggest or the greatest novel ever written but it's written with a sure and sympathetic eye, and spins a pretty good yarn. ( )
  NicholasPayne | Aug 1, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0767902459, Paperback)

This elegiac sea story is one of those rare narratives likely to pleasure lovers of adventure and lovers of language alike. With beguilingly modest lyricism, and great attention to detail, Michael Koepf, a commercial fisherman for 19 years, conjures up a world he knows inside and out. Consider, for example, this riff on fishing lures: "Neil's favorites were the hootchi-kootchies attached on short leaders behind large blades of curved metal called 'flashers.' The 'hootchies' hid sharp hooks under colorful plastic hula skirts that resembled tiny octopi and squid. The flashers made circles in the water, and the hootchi-kootchies danced behind them. Neil wondered whether these lures looked like real food to the fish, or did they resemble banners in an underwater carnival, enticing the fish to one last deadly ride?" Every fisherman will recognize the rightness of this description, though few would think to say it quite this way.

In the novel's present, Neil Kruger is taking his own last deadly ride. In the wake of a drug-and-illegal-immigrant landing gone seriously wrong, he's adrift on a life raft. As his hope of rescue waxes and wanes, Neil remembers his father and the whole tightly knit community of salmon fishermen in California's Half Moon Bay in the late 1950s through the 1970s. He remembers his own apprenticeship in the seagoing, fish-killing arts. He evokes the moods, the colors, the smells, the shifting energies and voices of the sea, the fish that run below the boat and fill its pit, the gulls that shriek and feast on entrails, the fundamental loneliness and great loyalty of the "huntsmen" who struggle to survive in a world that increasingly disdains their independence and discounts the product of their routinely death-defying labors. He recalls the stories his father's comrades told each other to pass the time when the Half Moon Bay boats managed to rendezvous for an evening of whiskey and cribbage far out to sea, stories that extend the past back to the earliest decades of the century, told in voices that ring absolutely true. What at first seem like random snapshots ultimately sequence themselves into a convincing narrative. Although the book has been compared to The English Patient, Koepf's style and his structure are simpler and less self-consciously literary than Ondaatje's. There are pages of seafaring action here to make your heart beat faster, moments of loss and betrayal to make it heavy, and, finally, a portrait of time, place, and people so lovingly rendered that you end up grateful to Mr. Koepf for making it. --Joyce Thompson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:26 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Two brothers who are fishermen on the West Coast turn to smuggling Asian immigrants to pay their mounting debts, but the boat is shipwrecked and one drowns. As Neil Kruger, the surviving brother, drifts on a raft he recounts their life at sea from an early age, following in their father's footsteps.… (more)

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