Looking for a light read to get your summer off to a good start? If so, Daniel Wallace’s “Big Fish” novel is for you!
“Big Fish” follows narrator William Bloom as he comes to terms with the impending death of Edward, his ailing father. Edward has always been a tall storyteller, but even on his deathbed he portrays himself through stories as a larger-than-life mythical being. From taming a wild giant to riding a foot-long catfish, nothing was ever impossible for Edward.
The legend that Edward claims to be, however, opens an ever-widening chasm between him and his son. As William mourns the inevitable, he also laments how little he knows about his father and tries to salvage the truth amid a sea of fiction.
While William aims to remain pragmatic, he can’t help but wonder if the stories are true. What if Edward really was a big fish in a small pond?
Through this lighthearted story, Wallace shows us the complex relationship between a grieving son and his absent father. William desires a deep connection, while Edward avoids any attempt to establish one. Although her tall tales agitate her son, they also teach him that life should not be taken seriously.
I commend Wallace for his vibrant prose. His vivid descriptions of landscapes transported me into his world and made me feel like a character in his story.
One thing that frustrated me while reading was Edward’s dialogue with his son. From start to finish, he communicates through jokes and retorts, which keeps William at bay. I found myself thinking, “Just talk to your son!”
But maybe I forgot Wallace’s purpose. For a man of legendary stature, Edward’s reluctance to be vulnerable reveals his humanity. Although Wallace portrays Edward as an almost perfect figure, it becomes apparent that Edward has flaws. Thus, he connects with his son in the only way he knows how: through whimsical stories that emphasize his myth and his joie de vivre.
The One Story, One Community Reading initiative
The Johnson City Public Library chose “Big Fish” for its One Story, One Community reading initiative. A story, a community is meant to unite people around a book. The program runs from May 13 to July 28.
People can get a physical copy of “Big Fish” for free by calling 423-434-4454 or stopping by the library at 100 W. Millard St. The book is also available for instant ebook borrowing and audiobooks via hoopla digital.
In addition to providing copies of the novel, the library will host history-related community events throughout the summer, including book discussion groups; an author conversation with Daniel Wallace; a screening of the 2003 film adaptation; and workshops on storytelling and collecting family stories.
About the Examiner
Andrea Hyder is an Adult Services Library Clerk at the Johnson City Public Library, where she answers people’s questions, helps with technology, and creates book bundles. Her love for reading began when she discovered encyclopedias as a child, and it hasn’t waned since. Her favorite books are usually non-fiction, but she also loves horror novels.