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When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man

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Overview

Every fall, the men of Loyalty Island sail from the Olympic Peninsula up to the Bering Sea, to spend the winter catching king crab. To Cal, Alaska remains as mythical and mysterious as Treasure Island. But while Cal is too young to accompany his father, he is old enough to know that everything depends on the fate of those boats thousands of miles north. He is also old enough to wonder about his mother's relationship with John Gaunt, owner of the fleet. Then Gaunt dies suddenly, leaving the business in the hands ...

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When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man

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Overview

Every fall, the men of Loyalty Island sail from the Olympic Peninsula up to the Bering Sea, to spend the winter catching king crab. To Cal, Alaska remains as mythical and mysterious as Treasure Island. But while Cal is too young to accompany his father, he is old enough to know that everything depends on the fate of those boats thousands of miles north. He is also old enough to wonder about his mother's relationship with John Gaunt, owner of the fleet. Then Gaunt dies suddenly, leaving the business in the hands of his son. Soon Cal stumbles on evidence that his father may have taken measures to salvage their way of life. As winter comes on, he is forced to make a terrible choice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Make no mistake, Dybek’s title is a shout-out to Treasure Island—and with good reason, since this debut combines the spirit of 19th-century boys’ adventure stories with a more stationary coming-of-age yarn. Nowhere could be more stationary than Loyalty Island, a crab-fishing village located on the border between Canada and the U.S., and home to young Cal, incorrigibly imaginative son of one of the perpetually absent fathers who sail off on perilous journeys, leaving their sons to grow up in the oppressive shadow of fishing magnate John Gaunt and learn of the outside world from movies and records. When Gaunt dies, a cold war divides the generations between tradition and a love of pop culture relics. A murder conspiracy and family secrets float to the surface, but Dybek’s grasp on his material is too shaky for the intrigue to have much effect. Cal’s world never quite comes to life, perhaps because most of the action occurs offshore, leaving readers with an endless list of samurai movies and Dylan songs in lieu of plot and a satisfying dénouement. Though there are hints of precocious brilliance, too often the novel reads as pastiche. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (Apr.)
Booklist
As a Loyalty Island boy and the son of a crab-boat captain, it's no surprise that Cal falls under the spell of Treasure Island. What is remarkable is how Cal's gruff father makes up auxiliary stories about Robert Louis Stevenson's Captain Flint and how deftly first-time novelist Dybek riffs on the predicaments facing the pirate classic's young Jim Hawkins to add ballast to his incandescently imaginative and suspenseful tale of fathers and sons, treasure and desperation, secrets and betrayals. Unfurling within moody evocations of the sea-brewed weather of the Olympic Peninsula and the purgatory endured by the women and children while the men fish in Alaskan waters, Dybek's tale subtly maps the trajectories that lead from worry to anger to tragedy, beginning with Cal's parents' foundering marriage. Henry "wanted nothing other than exactly what he had." Donna, a homesick Californian, submerges herself in a tide of music in her basement studio, which is both sanctuary and prison. When the fishing fleet's owner dies, the fishermen fear the worst from his volatile, feckless heir, and Cal finds himself enmeshed in a moral dilemma of epic complexity. Dybek has created a superbly orchestrated and soulful drama of loyalty to family and an imperiled way of life and the fathomless forces that make a good man go bad.
From the Publisher
Starred Review. "[An] incandescently imaginative and suspenseful tale of fathers and sons, treasure and desperation, secrets and betrayals. Unfurling within moody evocations of the sea-brewed weather of the Olympic Peninsula and the purgatory endured by the women and children while the men fish in Alaskan waters, Dybek's tale subtly maps the trajectories that lead from worry to anger to tragedy... A moral dilemma of epic complexity... A superbly orchestrated and soulful drama of loyalty to family and an imperiled way of life and the fathomless forces that make a good man go bad." - Booklist
"In this tale of good men 'doing unspeakable harm to other people,' Dybek proves himself an observant, appealing writer... Peopled with multidimensional characters and featuring well-drawn settings... Dybek writes well about family, about relationships and loyalty, about responsibility and community, and about all that passes from father to son." - Kirkus Reviews
"Dybek writes expertly about fishery and music, a...juxtaposition that...gives the story a deep, otherworldly quality... A captivating, literary coming-of-age novel." - Library Journal
"Dybek delivers a boatload [of twists] in this engrossing, often haunting thriller... [A] fine debut novel." - Washington Independent Review of Books
"[A] book to watch for." - O Magazine
"[A] powerful first novel." - The Boston Globe
"There is...wisdom here, and the momentum of a thrilling yarn, delivered as if by a scarred man by the consoling light of a fire." - The Economist
"Brilliant... I could do it a great disservice by labeling it a 'coming of age' novel, but the tapestry that Dybek weaves deserves much, much better than that... A suspenseful novel...the quality of the writing is enough to engage the reader... The themes that Dybek tackles are universal and are sure to resonate with all." - The Free Lance-Star
"[One of] the season's standout novels... Dybek can paint a salty landscape...but it's the fast whirlpool of lies, murder, and moral dilemma that drives the book." - Outside Magazine
"[A] Must Read Novel... A complex and riveting tale about deception and betrayal... Inventive, even ingenious... Inspired... In this magnificent debut Dybek's incommunicable thrills shock us and disturb us and make him one to watch." - The Daily Beast
"When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man is as much an atmospheric novel of morality and ambiguity as it is a sharply observed and plotted mystery-a novel for a new generation searching for understanding and adventure in the enigma of the sea." - Shelf Awareness
"A hypnotic, relentless debut... Dybek [is] a thrilling talent to watch... Terrific." - The A.V. Club
"Nick Dybek's debut novel left me on the verge of...missing my subway stop...[and] crying in public... [A] precise, incredibly tight narrative... [An] impressive debut. I'm excited to see what the future holds for Dybek." - The Brunette Bibliophile
"Robert Louis Stevenson would be proud of Nick Dybek... He delivers a page-turner full of danger, secrets, and betrayals." - Stewart O'Nan, author of Emily, Alone
"Complex and suspenseful... Dybek manages to create [a] genuine tragedy-powerful, mythic, unforgettable." - Jaimy Gordon, author of Lord of Misrule
"An engrossing and exacting moral thriller." - Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl
"Part mystery, part lament, part coming-of-age drama, this novel will stay with you long after you turn the last page... Fascinating and powerful." - Daniel Alarcon, author of Lost City Radio
"An authentic, atmospheric, coming-of-age story with a painful dilemma... A terrific debut." - C. J. Box, author of Back of Beyond
Library Journal
Loyalty Island, WA, is a fishing community made economically viable by generations of the wealthy Gaunt family. When patriarch John Gaunt dies and his mercurial son, Richard, threatens to sell the fishing industry to the Japanese, the residents are afraid of losing their livelihood. The story is told from the perspective of teenaged Cal, whose father is gone fishing most of the year in Alaska and whose cultured and restless mother secludes herself in her basement studio listening to her extensive record collection. When Cal's mother decides to spend the fishing season in her hometown in California, Cal refuses to accompany her and is left with a schoolmate's family. Feeling abandoned, Cal makes routine visits to his house and discovers a secret that haunts him for the rest of his life. VERDICT In his debut novel, Dybek writes expertly about fishery and music, an odd juxtaposition that nevertheless gives the story a deep, otherworldly quality. A main theme is the question of what sins we are capable of when pushed to our limits. A captivating, literary coming-of-age novel. [See Prepub Alert, 9/30/11.]—Joy Humphrey, Pepperdine Univ. Law Lib., Malibu, CA
Kirkus Reviews
In Dybek's debut novel, Cal Bollings makes a choice, and beyond wisdom and morality, he chooses loyalty. Fifteen-year-old Cal, son of Henry and Donna, lives on a rain-soaked Loyalty Island on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Henry is captain of the Bering Sea crab boat Laurentide. Donna, who stays at home on Seachase Lane, was a California New Age dabbler and a teacher. One day Donna set out on an impulsive Washington vacation and soon found herself enamored of, and pregnant by, rough-hewn but gentle Henry. It is now summer 1986. John Gaunt has died. With him may die all of the fishing village, all but the rumors of his relationship with Donna Bollings. Gaunt owned the fishing fleet, and the fleet supports the town, but Gaunt never allowed his son and heir, Richard, a life on the sea. At the cusp of the new season, the town confronts Richard's decision to sell the Gaunt enterprise to the Japanese. Then word circulates that Richard has relented and decided instead to sail north with the fleet. Donna is suspicious, suspecting a plot by Henry and his fellow boat captains. Donna, who is pregnant, argues with Henry and then asks Cal to accompany her to California. He refuses. Henry, pleased, arranges for Cal to board with another captain's family. A few days after the crab fleet sails, Richard is reported missing at sea. Cal is confused, and grows more mystified when he discovers Richard imprisoned in the basement of the Bollings' locked home. In this tale of good men "doing unspeakable harm to other people," Dybek proves himself a observant, appealing writer: "Wind told the branches to tremble." Adult Cal tells the story, one peopled with multidimensional characters and featuring well-drawn settings. Dybek writes well about family, about relationships and loyalty, about responsibility and community, and about all that passes from father to son. No Deadliest Catch, but rather literary fiction as morality play.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781624064593
  • Publisher: Dreamscape Media
  • Publication date: 4/2/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Nick Dybek is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is the recipient of a Hopwood Award for Short Fiction, a Maytag Fellowship, and a 2010 Michener-Copernicus Society of America Award. He lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 9, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2012

    To fifteen-year-old Cal, his father is like a stranger. The fami

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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