Norman Maclean was a wonderful writer. My father really admired him as an author and read his book, A River Runs Through It, twenty-six years ago shortly before he died. I remember that he loved it, and I have kept my father’s copy of the book on my shelf for all these years. I decided to put it on my reading list for The Classics Club as one of my fifty-books-in-five-years, so I would finally read it.
from the publisher:
From its first magnificent sentence, “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing”, to the last, “I am haunted by waters”, A River Runs Through It is an American classic.
Based on Norman Maclean’s childhood experiences, A River Runs Through It has established itself as one of the most moving stories of our time; it captivates readers with vivid descriptions of life along Montana’s Big Blackfoot River and its near magical blend of fly fishing with the troubling affections of the heart.
I can only guess now the things my father liked about this book. My father was also a writer, so I know he appreciated the beauty of the writing. He and Norman Maclean also had a sense of place in common — Norman Maclean grew up in Montana, and my father grew up in Wyoming, so they shared similar landscapes and boyhood experiences of place. This book is based on Maclean’s family and memories from his younger years; my father was also writing of his own memories and family history.
It would be nice to talk with my father about this book because, in all honesty, I didn’t like it as much as he did. The first half of the book dragged a bit for me. The second half was much more engaging and the story he told of a family tragedy was very moving. The beauty of his narrative through that part of the book really touched me. But I also felt that it was more of a “man’s book,” although I realized that it was actually an honest depiction of the life and times and culture of that day.
I had previously read Norman Maclean’s other book, Young Men and Fire, which is an amazing account of the 1949 Mann Gulch fire in Montana where 13 young Smokejumpers were killed. It was a terrible tragedy, and Maclean’s meticulous research and exquisite writing, brought the story right to this reader’s heart. That was a book that has had a lasting impact on my life!
So, although A River Runs Through It didn’t touch me in the same way it touched my father, we were both touched deeply by the beautiful writings of Norman Maclean, and that’s a connection I treasure.
I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Montana.