The River Why
by David James Duncan
I wanted to like this one. I loved Duncan’s novel The Brothers K and had been looking forward to reading this one, but it just didn’t work for me. I felt myself dreading it every time I was about to pick it up. It was incredibly hard for me to get into. It’s about fly fishing and philosophy, an odd combination in any book, but in this meandering novel neither subject captured my interest.
Gus is a fisherman to his core. His parents are both talented fishers and he was raised on a steady diet of hooks and lines. His father is a prim and proper Englishman and his mother is a redneck hot-tempered woman. Though their personalities clash, their loyalty to each other is unshakeable. The odd pairing, along with their eccentric son Bill Bob, were my favorite elements in the book, but the trio made far too few appearances to keep my interest. Gus’ parents are thrilled when he turns out to have a natural ability for the past time.
BOTTOM LINE: I definitely seem to be in the minority here, but I just couldn’t get into it. There were some beautifully written sections and a few really unique supporting characters, but in the end it wasn’t enough. The rest of it fell flat for me. It’s not good when your favorite part of the book is finishing it so you don’t ever have to pick it up again.
“… because of fishing I grew up osprey-silent and trout-shy and developed early on an ability to slide through the Public School System as river water slides by the logjams, rockslides and dams that bar its seaward journey.”
“Perhaps not to know him is to know him well. He has a height and weight, face, voice, hair, the usual number of limbs – all the accoutrements of a brother. Yet there is an impregnability about him that thwarts easy intimacy.”