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Backcast: Fatherhood, Fly-fishing, and a River Journey Through the Heart of Alaska Hardcover – September 18, 2007
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"The Alaskan wilderness leaps to life in its gritty reality—fast-rushing rivers, misty rolling hills, bears "the size of church doors," relentless rainfalls, eddies roiling with fat salmon and char—just as the tenuous terrain between father and son leaps to life too. Anger and hurt thread through this book—but so do taut stretches of beauty, wonder, and redemption in the riches of life in the wild."--Don George, National Geographic Traveler (Book of the Month)
"Backcast" is a compelling read, part true adventure, part commentary on fatherhood and life's twists and turns."--Peter Genovese, Newark Star-Ledger
"I wholly recommend this read, for anyone who thinks of fly fishing, or the outdoors as an indispensable part of their lives, and to anyone who has ever been a father or a son, and had hopes and disappointments for that relationship. This is a well written book, a real book, an honest book, a thoughtful book, and a thoroughly enjoyable read."--Cameron Larsen, Oregon guide and Big Y Fly blog
“Think of crossing Tobias Wolff's dysfunctional upbringing in This Boy’s Life with Norman MacLean's metaphysical fly-fishing in A River Runs Through It (with admixtures of E.B. White's classic essay “Once More to the Lake” and Hemingway's “Big Two-Hearted River”— all of it going back more or less to Huck and Jim on the raft) and you get a rough idea of the territory, and of the high standard that Lou Ureneck has set for himself. But Ureneck's memoir has its own entirely distinctive flow of life: turbulent, painful, resilient, intelligent, gropingly moral, beautifully observed. It's hard to write about fathers and sons — or rather, it is hard for fathers and sons to write about one another. But Lou Ureneck has done it brilliantly. ”— Lance Morrow, author of The Chief: A Memoir of Fathers and Sons
“This is a very rich memoir: part outdoor adventure story, menacing bears and all; part travel book about the Alaskan outback; part fish story (in the most literal and informative sense); and part personal drama about a father re-bonding with his son." -- Justin Kaplan, Winner of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography
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With those fishing adventures lovingly embossed in my heart I bought this book. The "tickler" review of this book centered on a Father and Son fishing trip to Alaska. Unfortunately for the author, (Lou Ureneck) his experience with his son Adam was not so lovingly remembered. Lou had divorced his wife of over twenty years and his son had always seemed to blame him. Things never seemed to be the same between Father and Son since the divorce. Lou saw this trip as a last gasp in rebuilding a loving bond before Adam went to college. At the time of this summer trip to Alaska Lou was 49 and Adam was 18. From the time they arrived in Alaska Adam acted like Lou was either non-existent, dumb, a nuisance or all three. When they finally made it into the raft, and on to the river that would occupy most of the story, Lou felt like he was being treated with the same level of importance by his son as a "bologna sandwich". The manner of which the author turns phrases is at times intelligently short and powerful: "It was easy to turn him into a fisherman. I just put him near water." And at other times elegantly beautiful and poetic, as when he was describing the constantly changing Alaskan landscape as their unrelenting trip progresses down the river: "The entire landscape seemed to be breaking into shards of light and color like a crystal held up to the sun and turned first this way and then that."
What starts off as a story of an Alaskan fishing trip begins to become long flash backs to the Author's life story. Lou starts sharing with the reader his childhood that included his Father leaving his family when he was young, leaving him and his brother to lead an almost nomadic life with his mother living in over seventeen different homes. As Lou retells his childhood years, he seems to be psychoanalyzing himself at the same time. When he writes that his mother's boyfriend Johnny, an unreliable alcoholic who becomes her second husband, and becomes more of a Father figure than his natural Father, with almost all the fond memories tied to fishing, his despair due to the chasm between him and Adam becomes even more daunting, when he digs up the memory of Johnny simply getting up and walking out of the house without ever coming back.
When the story focuses on the river, we're involved with protective, potentially murderous, giant bears, bad weather, raging rapids, large assortments and sizes of fish to catch, dwindling food supplies, and the constantly growing abyss between Father and Son. Lou felt his son emanated nothing but "sarcasm, annoyance, and distance." A large portion of the book is dedicated to the author's life story rather than the fishing trip. The trip is more an analogy of the Father-Son relationship Lou never had as a child, and he is giving one last soulful, final, gasp of parental effort, to transform his relationship with Adam into what he always dreamed of and never got as a son with a Father.
At the end of this book I found myself feeling very said for Lou because I know what treasure Lou was searching for at the end of his personal rainbow. On February 12th 2003, the night before I was to have brain surgery for a tumor that could very well (and almost did) end my life, I went for a walk with my son and told him what I wanted done with the material things I would leave behind if I didn't make it, and then we reminisced about something we both agreed 100% on: WE BOTH SAID THE GREATEST FATHER & SON TIMES WE EVER HAD IN OUR LIFE WERE OUR FISHING TRIPS IN LOUISIANA! I know that a shared feeling like that with his son Adam, was the treasure Lou was looking for in Alaska.
I've read probably 100 fishing books, and I'd rate this in the bottom 20%, and it is not written as it is advertised.At best, this is a library read....don't fork over any cash.