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Book review: The River Why?

Discovering "The River Why" by David James Duncan was a serendipitous occurrence, and its impact on my reading experience was nothing short of delightful. While the initial inclination might be to label it as a book solely about a fisherman and his family, Duncan's narrative transcends such simplicity. The book, rich with elements of fishing, humor, and familial anecdotes, delves into profound themes that resonate far beyond the riverbanks.



The protagonists, the storyteller's parents, share a common love for fishing, yet their approaches to the sport are as diverse as their personalities. The father, a renowned fly fisher, rod builder, and fly tier, contrasts sharply with the mother, who finds contentment in the simple act of dunking a worm with impressive skill. This contrast serves as a gateway to exploring broader themes such as spirituality, privacy, community, ecology, and the very essence of life.

As the narrative unfolds, "The River Why" takes readers on a captivating journey, seamlessly blending humor, intrigue, emotion, and introspection. The anecdotes, including the amusing tale of the parents' meeting, contribute to the multifaceted nature of the story. The book becomes a thought-provoking exploration that evokes laughter, interest, compels deep contemplation, tugs at heartstrings, and imparts moments of sheer joy.


The central character, Gus, following in his father's footsteps, evolves into an adept fly fisherman, fly tier, and rod builder over the course of a remarkable summer spent on an unnamed river in the Pacific Northwest. The narrative not only captures the nuances of fishing expertise but also weaves a tapestry of personal growth and self-discovery.


Reading "The River Why" prompted bouts of laughter that echoed with the shared experiences of fishing adventures with my own father. Duncan's storytelling skillfully combines the ordinary and the extraordinary, creating a narrative that is relatable yet profound.


Whether you're an avid angler or a reader seeking a narrative that transcends conventional genres, "The River Why" is a highly recommended read. Accessible through the Carnegie Library system or available on Amazon, it offers a literary expedition that is both entertaining and enlightening, leaving an indelible mark on the reader's psyche.


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