The Fisherman’s Son by Michael Koepf (Broadway Books, 1998)

20602164 - The Fisherman’s Son by Michael Koepf (Broadway Books, 1998)

Stick to something you know, or do your research.  The brilliance of The Fisherman’s Son may be attributed to Michael Koepf’s understanding of this idea.  His experience as a commercial fisherman for nearly 20 years seems to inspire  every word in this fictional story about a boy’s adventures on the sea with his father.  Although Koepf’s knowledge of the sea is apparent, he allows the reader to experience the ocean alongside him and his characters.  I might not know the terminology relating to boats and fishing but I didn’t feel disengaged from the novel at any point, Koepf does such a spectacular job using language that paints a vivid portrait of the sea and those who sail it.

This book won’t allow you to catch your breath.  I was skeptical when I first glanced at this book on the bookshelf because (I’m now slightly ashamed to admit) I couldn’t imagine what could possibly intrigue me about fishing, but Koepf finds a way of making the sea enthrall every character in his novel, along with his reader.  I was surprised when Koepf took an opposite approach than what I anticipated.  I expected this novel to romanticize a fisherman’s job.  Although Koepf does demonstrate a deep respect for these men, he concetrates much more on the majesty of the ocean.  His descriptions simultaneously humanize the sea, but also humiliates humanity when we try to measure up to the sea’s unyielding power.  He reminds us of our tiny existence in the presence of something as grand as nature itself.  Contrary to many sea-bound novels, however, Koepf is candid and gritfully honest about everything life on the sea encompasses.  He doesn’t deceive the reader with long-winded passages or pointless metaphors, he presents the sea as truthfully as he can.  I remained awestruck and captivated through the novel’s entirety, revealing a part of the world that is hard to understand from land.  I thank Michael Koepf for sharing a part of this world with us, a piece of the world that is ours as well, but that we might take for granted or underestimate.  I’ll never be able to look at the ocean in quite the same way again-or the writing in a novel, for that matter.  Koepf honors the sea the only way he knows how from his own days as a fisherman.  For being able to describe a part of nature that really transcends words, and doing so in such a lyrical and eloquent fashion, I consider that quite an accomplishment.


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