Failure of Fish

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This novel opens with narrator Billy Potter, nearing the end of his life, preparing to publish a history of his hometown. He tells the story of his young adulthood in the town of Stella’s Cove, British Columbia in the years surrounding WWI. Stella’s Cove is intricately mixed up with Billy’s personal history. The city’s beginning is the mid-Nineteenth Century, and like many such Pacific Coast towns in the United States as well, it went through periods of boom and bust as its economy shifted from fur to gold mining and then to fishing industries. However, Stella’s Cove is unique in it’s proximity to the Gavin’s Glacier, which haunts the town. The glacier blocks access into the town by land–so massive that the only access is a steamboat that passes by periodically, carrying both human and material cargo.

This is a fascinating book. The setting itself is compelling. The town and glacier are fictional, but the details bring the place to life. The town has a tragic past that comes out gradually, only fully revealed at the end. This past shaped Billy, an overachiever who has tried to escape it and its history but finds himself drawn back to it. Everyone who comes to Stella’s Grove ends up trapped, and the physical isolation of the town doesn’t remove the influence of the outside world and the start of World War I.

Most people in the town, including Billy’s mother, drink to cope with the isolation and the growing moral failures of the town’s church-going members. Some have even died trying to escape. The narrative is episodic, focusing in turn on the various town characters, such as the young teacher with progressive views who mentors Billy, shaping the direction of his life. It is not coincidental that Billy goes on to get a Master’s degree in psychology. Billy’s story in the journal reveals the story of his young adulthood which reveals his family’s story which opens into the town’s story, like Russian matryoshka dolls. Overall an excellent coming of age novel that provides more questions than trite answers.

Reviewed By:

Author Michael Sorbonne Robinson
Star Count /5
Format eBook
Page Count 396 pages
Publisher BroncoJockey Books, LLC
Publish Date 2017-Jan-01
ISBN 9780692736417 Buy this Book
Issue June 2017
Category Historical Fiction


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