When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Manby Nick Dybek
Every fall, the men of Loyalty Island—like their fathers and grandfathers before them—still sail from the Olympic Peninsula up to the Bering Sea to spend the winter catching king crab. Their dangerous occupation/b>/i>
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Dybeck has created real characters who you think about, wonder about and care about long after you finish reading the book. The story has universal appeal. The setting and story are refreshing; unlike anything I have read before. I would recommend it to people who enjoy reading about adventure, family dynamics, coming of age, and mystery. Some of the mystery remains after the book ends... it leaves you craving for more.
To fifteen-year-old Cal, his father is like a stranger. The family resides on Loyalty Island, a costal Washington community that relies on the Alaskan king-crabbing season to provide economic stability. Each winter, Cal and his mother are left alone while Henry braves the harsh conditions of the Bering Sea. Despite Henry's well intentions, Cal feels a disconnect with his father. His mother, who moved to the island after falling in love with Henry and becoming pregnant with Cal, spends countless hours in the basement, listening to her large record collection and recalling her earlier years. Now that he is older, Cal is noticing trouble in is parent's marriage. They argue about whether or not he should become a fisherman like is father. His mother unrelentingly insists that he will complete school and find a job away from the community's difficult lifestyle. Even more troubling than the disagreements, however, is the amount of time that his mother spends with local tycoon John Gaunt. Gaunt owns the entire fleet of crabbing boats and the local cannery. When he suddenly dies, the entire business is left in the hands of his son Richard, who has never embraced the lifestyle of his father. As Richard threatens to disrupt the livelihood of the community, and Cal's mother, now pregnant and distraught with grief, flees to a friend's home in California, Cal is forced to remain with his father. When the winter crap season approaches, Cal discovers information that shows how far his father has gone to protect their way of life. What follows is a harrowing tale of a young man, forced to come to terms with his family, himself, and to decide what is the "right" thing to do. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel. This is author Nick Dybek's debut, but he writes with the confidence and simplicity of a natural storyteller. Each character is believably conflicted and their introspections, during a very unique situation, are subtle and genuine. Overall, the novel asks how far we would go to maintain a lifestyle and to protect the ones we love. The story takes a bit of time to find its legs (oddly appropriate for a novel about fisherman and choppy seas), but the characters are interesting enough to keep the plot moving. The discovery in the middle of the novel left me shocked, and the last half had me completely riveted. This is an extremely solid novel that expertly blends strong characters with a vivid setting, original plot, and a moral awareness that is rarely found in debut novels.