The Sky Fisherman [NOOK Book]

Overview

With his third novel, Craig Lesley comes into his own as an important American writer. Combining the familial loyalties and betrayals of Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It with the dead-on perfect ear for western dialect and local ritual of Thomas McGuane's Northing but Blue Skies, he presents a story that is both fresh and powerful. Laced with the solace of the great outdoors and the spirituality of the Indians on the local reservation, The Sky Fisherman is set in a small town in the Northwest, where the ...
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The Sky Fisherman

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Overview

With his third novel, Craig Lesley comes into his own as an important American writer. Combining the familial loyalties and betrayals of Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It with the dead-on perfect ear for western dialect and local ritual of Thomas McGuane's Northing but Blue Skies, he presents a story that is both fresh and powerful. Laced with the solace of the great outdoors and the spirituality of the Indians on the local reservation, The Sky Fisherman is set in a small town in the Northwest, where the interwoven currents of love, death, and a boy's coming of age flow swiftly below a surface life of hard work and confrontation with the forces of nature. The boy, Culver, his twice-married mother, and his charismatic uncle Jake are shadowed by the death of Culver's father in a fishing accident. When a suspicious fire destroys the town mill and three murders occur, Culver's world is engulfed by the dangers swirling around him. Craig Lesley's strength as a storyteller lies in his
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Culver, a mild-mannered and likable young teen growing up in a small Northwestern town, is trying to sort out a great deal of confusing stuff: his father's drowning death; the bigotry evident against local Indians; his mother's dislike for his charismatic Uncle Jake; the way his outlaw stepfather, wanted for torching a railroad compound, keeps popping in and out of his life. Culver's interests run to the physical-basketball, fly-fishing and working at his uncle's bait-and-tackle shop. It's there that he receives an informal education at the feet of a group of men-dubbed the ``backroom boys'' by narrator Culver-who hang around the store and who include a cropduster, a glue-mixer at the local lumber mill, a baker, a local radio personality and an enigmatic Indian sheriff. Culver is seduced by the group's easy joviality and his Uncle Jake's heroic streak, which manifests when a fire claims the mill. But the boy discovers a secret involving his dead father that drives a wedge between himself and his uncle, and that threatens to make an adult out of him before his time. Lesley (Winterkill) is a smooth and talented writer, with a pleasing touch for detail and an unwavering confidence. His material tends to the sentimental: his central metaphor, a skyful of invented constellations as related to Culver by Uncle Jake, is an easy image, neither compelling nor powerful. But Culver is an unusually appealing character, and when the novel's close toes a maudlin line, it feels almost earned. (Aug.)
Bill Ott
Lesley's first two novels--"Winterkill" 1984 and "River Song" 1989--examined the struggle of Native Americans to preserve the wisdom of their ancestors in the face of opposition from the bureaucratic white world. This time the tenuous coexistence between whites and Indians in the contemporary Northwest is again an element in the story, but the focus is on the coming-of-age of a young white teenager, Culver, growing up with his mother and his uncle Jake, a river guide and the owner of a sporting goods store. Lurking beneath the perfectly captured camaraderie of Jake and the good ol' boys hanging out at the store is the unresolved question of how Culver's father died in a river accident. Answering this question forces Culver to confront his family's flawed history and eventually leads him to his own epiphany on the river. Lesley has a real feel for the way the intimacy and the pettiness of small-town life push and pull both young and old. Though the novel contains a few too many flights of fly-fishing-inspired lyricism, it further establishes the author as a major voice in the fiction of the American West".
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547345703
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 8/22/1995
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 319
  • Sales rank: 936,745
  • File size: 362 KB

Meet the Author

Craig Lesley is a lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest. He has received the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award for both Winterkill and for The Sky Fisherman. He is also the author of River Song and Storm Rider. He lives in Portland Oregon with his wife and two daughters.
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Reading Group Guide

Set in small-town Oregon in 1959, Craig Lesley's The Sky Fisherman is a powerful novel about loss and redemption, family and community, the western panorama, and the landscape of the heart.

Ripe with the concerns of a boy about to become a man, this novel explores the many paths to adulthood through its various characters and their relationships to the sometimes ravaging forces of nature. Culver, the narrator, is growing into adulthood as his mother leaves his stepfather and they both return to the town in which Culver's father, her fist husband, drowned. Culver's Uncle Jake, a fishing guide, town leader, and witness to the drowning, becomes Culver's surrogate father. The Sky Fisherman reveals the intricate demography of a family trying to heal itself and survive. This reader's guide is designed as a navigation tool as you chart your way through this novel, which Carolyn See called, "an exquisitely delineated map of America."

Discussion Questions:
1. Author Craig Lesley writes, "The Sky Fisherman is my gift to the small communities I cherish."How does the small town function in the story, and what does it contribute to it? Could the novel take place in an urban setting? Why or why not?

2. The primary elements of fire and water both figure prominently in the novel. What is their significance to the story? What is the relationship each element has to the other? How do fire and water relate to the loss and redemption in the book?

3. How does the novel portray Native American traditions and beliefs? What is their relationship to the beliefs of the white community? To the events of the novel?

4. The railway figures centrally in the novel. What role does the railway play in both building character and in revealing the economics of the region? How does the metaphor of transportation relate to Culver's concerns in becoming a man?

5. The Sky Fisherman contains examples of a both natural disasters and those caused by people. What is the relationship between these two types of tragedy? In what ways are they similar? Different? Describe the psychological effects of such events.

6. Uncle Jake is a larger-than-life figure in the narrative. What kind of hero is he? What does he represent to Culver? To the community? To the novel as a whole? What sort of adulthood does he signify?

7. What is Culver's relationship to his mother? What kind of woman is she? How have the circumstances of her life influenced her character?

8. At age fourteen, Craig Lesley was crushed by a farm machine and, as he puts it, "I know the swift, unpredictable nature of accident." What role do accidents play in the book? How -- and when -- do they haunt the various characters?

9. Is The Sky Fisherman a traditional coming-of-age story? Which characters come of age and how? What events contribute to these rites of passage?

10. Who, or what, is the "sky fisherman"? Which character, or characters, figure as fishermen of the sky? How might this symbol act as a metaphor, and for what?

About the Author:
Craig Lesley is a lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest. He was born in The Dalles and now lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and two daughters. He graduated from Whitman College, where he also received a Doctorate of Human Letters. He received an M.A. in English from the University of Kansas and an M.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has spent much of his life exploring the outdoors, including an eight-year stint with the Deschutes River Guide Service in Oregon. He is the author of three previous novels, including Winterkill, forthcoming in trade paperback from Picador USA.

Of his novel, Lesley writes, "The Sky Fisherman's rugged landscape backdrops family secrets, small town mysteries and flashpoints of violence. Larger-than-life characters inhabit the Interior West, work hard, and rise to heroic actions. Jake is modeled on my uncle, a legendary fishing guide and small-town hero. Flora resembles my mother, a tenacious single parent who worked on The Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Billyum Bruised Head played high school football with me.

The book explores the anger and friendship between the Indian and white communities. Occasionally, the long-smoldering grudges are set aside to fight common natural disasters."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 7, 2010

    Wonderful

    Have read this story and all others by local author. Very intimate account of maturing and discovery. Great family book for vacation travel times and downtime.
    Oregon at all corners.

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  • Posted June 7, 2010

    Great Read

    This book keeps the gears turning. The many mystery's that the small town has to offer will constantly stay in the back of your head throughout the entire book. Although many loose ends remain untied this book still gracefully closes. The character development is boring. The author could have done a better job introducing the lesser characters. The long anecdotes and physical descriptions made me say "Oh no! Here we go again." I could not stand having to read about Billy Joe killing a rattlesnake. Get on with the story. Besides the poor, lesser, character development this book was a great read. I only wish I knew what happened to all the dead people.

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  • Posted May 3, 2010

    Calling all outdoorsmen

    This is a great read that will hold your attention to the very end. Intricate, realistic and well developed characters quickly draw you into small town life, and a plot clogged with mysteries keeps you guessing. Jake is a character who you will never forget, with his daredevilish bravery and unique knowledge of the river and the town. Throughout the book you get a taste of indian culture, and the effects of white prejudices. A great book for anyone who loves the outdoors, Lesley's descriptions of the river and fishing scenes will speak strait to your heart, as they did for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2005

    It is taught in lit courses!

    I am taking The Award Winning Novel taught by Craig Lesley right now. Maybe that doesn't count since he's teaching his own book. Not only is he a great writer, but he's a really awesome professor! :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2003

    If I Could Give This More Than 5 Stars....

    This was a totally awesome book! Craig Lesley writes beautifully flowing prose and has, in this novel, created a murder mystery that almost reads like a classic! He intertwines Pacific Northwest Native American lore with small town living in a truly fascinating way. To give this book only a 5-star rating is a shame! This should become required reading in college-level literature courses.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2002

    Demented And Mysterious

    I do not recommend this book for those who have a weak stomach or those who like romantic stories. This book envolves alot of death and insane people. Sky Fisherman also has cursing. The swearing gets worse as the book goes on but it is necessary for you to understand the people and how they feel. The best part of this book is when the bums perform the 'do it yourself cremation!' This book makes you think. You have to assume alot of things for the book to have a real ending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2002

    The Sky Fisherman

    This book has a little bit for everyone: outdoors, fishing, hunting, murders, mysteries, fires, heroic rescues, and old stories and legends. If a person pays attention they can learn a lot from Jake, as well as Billyum and Culver. There is cursing in this book, but the characters and tension could not be easily understood without it.

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

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