Big Fish by Daniel Wallace

Big Fish

Big Fish

Daniel Wallace (Adult Fiction)

Edward Bloom was born in Ashland, Alabama during the driest summer in forty years.  Edward knew he was destined for greatness…at least that’s what he always imagined.  He was to be a big fish in a big pond.  After all, wasn’t it his birth that finally brought water to his town’s scorched ground?  Weren’t people and animals inexplicably drawn to him?  Throughout his life, Edward would be a sailor, a successful business owner, and a true man of the world who also bought an entire town down to the last square inch.  Edward was also a husband, a father, and a friend to all.  But most of all, Edward Bloom was a myth.  His son, William, longs to be close to a father whose past is as vast and complicated as the current space between the two.  With Edward on his deathbed, can William distinguish fact from fiction so that he can better understand his father?  Surely stories of a two-headed geisha, a giant, and a mermaid can’t possibly be true…can they?

Daniel Wallace gives us a quirky and lighthearted story showing us the complex and messy relationship between a father and son.  This book is a quick read so only lightly scratches the surface regarding Edward’s inability or unwillingness to emotionally connect with his son.  All attempts at intimacy by William yield little more than a humorous story and a punchline and the reader shares in his growing frustration and apathy.  Edward explains to William that his own father was rarely around, but this fact doesn’t make it any less painful for William who is constantly at odds with a pithy metaphor or a ready one-liner.

Fathers are so many things to their sons or daughters: superhero, knight, prince charming, mentor, teacher, coach, buddy.  Like Edward, our own dads seem invincible, immortal, and a tad mythical.  Edward measured greatness through deeds.  William merely wanted a father who was an active participant rather than an occasional onlooker. And although laughter is said to be the best medicine, perhaps laughter is not the medicine, but it merely makes the real medicine go down a little easier.

Edward once said to William, “Remembering a man’s stories makes his immortal, did you know that?”  I have many stories from my father’s past—stories made up of fact and fiction that intertwine and entangle themselves like vines on a trellis.  Over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate the truth from fantasy, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter because you realize that even though your dad didn’t own a town or rescue a mermaid, he’s still pretty great because he’s YOUR dad and that alone makes him a pretty big fish.

Rating: 4/5

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (J)

It’s Throwback Thursday where we review a Classic from literature.  In honor of Halloween, we’ll be reviewing ghoulishly scary and spooky books throughout the month of October.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow   

Washington Irving (Juvenile Fiction)

About two miles past the village of Tarry Town, there is a little village which is perhaps one of the quietest places in all the world.  It’s known as Sleepy Hollow and is thought to be bewitched.  Residents have been known to see strange sights or to hear voices in the night air.  There is never a shortage of ghostly tales or haunted spots, but the dominant spirit that holds dominion over all is the lone headless figure on horseback.

If you think Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is similar to Disney’s 1949 animated Halloween staple, think again.  Irving gives us three characters (Ichabod Crane, Katrina Van Tassel, and Brom Van Brunt a/k/a Brom Bones) with three very different desires (to be the boss, to be the bride, and to be the best).  First, we have Ichabod Crane who, contrary to his appearance and demeanor, is quite the adept opportunist.  He woos old Baltus Van Tassel’s daughter, Katrina, motivated not by his passion, but rather by her purse for Ichabod realizes that she is the natural heir apparent to her father’s estate.  Then there’s the charming Katrina Van Tassel who is as manipulative as she is beautiful.  She leverages Ichabod’s feelings for her merely to motivate her apathetic suitor, Brom, toward matrimony.  Lastly, we have Brom Van Brunt who is nothing more than a jealous and possessive man-child with a penchant for childish pranks and an aversion to adult responsibility.

Irving gives us an emotionally charged and haunting tale of ghosts, legends, love, greed, and jealousy…all tightly wrapped within a thick, black cloak and sitting high atop a powerful, red-eyed steed.  All is not what it seems to be in the tranquil hamlet of Sleepy Hollow, and master storyteller Washington Irving reminds us that appearances can be deceiving and fear only has the power we give it.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to