Looking for a light read to kick off your summer? If so, Daniel Wallace’s novel “Big Fish” is the book for you!
“Big Fish” follows narrator William Bloom, who comes to terms with the impending death of his ailing father Edward. Edward has always been a 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 has been impossible for Edward.
However, the legend that Edward claims to be drives a widening chasm between him and his son. As William laments the inevitable, he too laments how little he knows about his father and tries to salvage the truth from a sea of fiction.
While William pretends to remain pragmatic, he can’t help but wonder if the stories are true. What if Edward really is a big fish in a small pond?
Through this light-hearted story, Wallace shows us the complex relationship between a grieving son and his absent father. William wants a deep connection, while Edward avoids any attempt to establish one. Although his stories disturb his son, they also teach him not to take life so 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 with jokes and one-liners, which keeps William at a distance. I found myself thinking, “Just talk to your son!”
But maybe I missed Wallace’s point. For a man of legendary stature, Edward’s reluctance to be vulnerable reveals his humanity. Although Wallace represents Edward as a near-perfect figure, it becomes apparent that Edward has flaws. Thus, he connects with his son in the only way he knows how: through fanciful tales that emphasize his mythos and his zest for life.
The One Story, One Community Reading Initiative
The Johnson City Public Library has chosen “Big Fish” for its One Story, One Community reading initiative. A story, a community aims 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 by visiting the library at 100 W. Millard St. The book is also available for instant eBook and audiobook loan through hoopla. digital.
In addition to providing copies of the novel, the library will hold community events throughout the summer related to the story, including book discussion groups; an author talk with Daniel Wallace; a screening of the 2003 film adaptation; and narration workshops and compilation of family histories.
About the reviewer
Andrea Hyder is a library clerk for Adult Services at the Johnson City Public Library, where she answers people’s questions, helps with technology, and creates book packages. Her love of reading began when she discovered encyclopedias as a child and hasn’t abated since. Her favorite books are usually non-fiction, but she also enjoys horror novels.