The Barnes & Noble Review
In spare language that cuts through to the truth, Lorian Hemingway tells of two lives, both her own. Walk on Water is the memoir of a woman who could find solace solely in alcohol and fishing, and in this brave look back on her darkest days, she reveals the battle she fought, which shadowed that of her famous grandfather, and describes how she almost lost the same war he did. Through her honest view of humanity she is able to focus with grace and humor on the pivotal moments of a life fraught with bitter heartache and stilled by a keen eye that could find magic in nature.
Ironically, it was on a trip to the Big Two-Hearted River, which had been made famous by her grandfather Ernest, that Lorian realized she had given her life over to her addiction. It was at this moment that she admitted to herself that she "would murder to drink, kill to quiet the panic, put a knife to the throat of anyone who kept me from it, and thrust." It was not until much later, after her 14 days of detox (the average time is three days), that her doctor told her that when she first came in he thought she had two weeks to live.
Fishing was the one constant in Lorian's life that helped her survive a painful and difficult childhood. It allowed her to feel connected to something and gave her a sense of purpose and an excuse to get out of her house.
Lorian's father, Ernest Hemingway's biological son, left Lorian's mother when she was six. Lorian was then raised by her mother and an incredibly abusive stepfather. She watched horrific scenes of physical abuse, all thewhiledreaming of an idealized biological father, whom she later found to be a troubled man who had fits of depression that caused him to lock himself in his room for weeks. Befriended by a woman known as Catfish, Lorian learned the art of catfishing and a modified fly-casting technique long before she knew anything of her grandfather's passion for the sport. Later, her great-uncle Les (Ernest's brother), his daughter Hilary, and Dr. Howard Engle became her closest kin, taking her fishing from the Florida Keys to Bimini. Lorian chronicles this group's travels to some of the world's prime spots with such luminaries as Jimmy Albright, who had accompanied Hemingway, Zane Gray, Ted Williams, and Joe Brooks.
Yet these special moments on the water were not enough to pull her out of her chronic alcoholism. Lorian does not shy away from revealing her darkest days in Walk on Water, nor does she deny the difficulties of learning to live without the substance that had become an integral part of her life. Yet with the love and support of her daughter, Lorian Hemingway has adjusted to life and fishing without booze and says, "I was lucky, and in these new bright, hard-as-diamond days I feel sometimes, almost giddily, as if I had walked away from murder."