The River Why (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

The River Why by David James Duncan, one of those special books, hard to describe and a joy to read.  While the book certainly pays homage to fly fishing, it is much more than a novel about fishing.  A more apt description would be a book about life, living in the present, truly being aware of the grandeur surrounding us, and walking gently on the earth.  Now I am making it sound too serious, see what I mean about describing this story.  It is also funny.  An upper crust Brit transplanted to Oregon where he writes about fly fishing encounters a tough as nails Eastern Oregon cowgirl, sparks fly, progeny result.  Their parenting styles are different, but somehow it all works. The narrator of the story is their son, Gus, a gifted fisherman, also a young man coming of age and finding solace in nature.  It is not necessary to fish to thoroughly enjoy this beautiful story that is both entertaining and thoughtful.

— Deon Stonehouse


The classic novel of fly fishing and spirituality republished with a new Afterword by the author.

Since its publication in 1983, The River Why has become a classic. David James Duncan's sweeping novel is a coming-of-age comedy about love, nature, and the quest for self-discovery, written in a voice as distinct and powerful as any in American letters.

Gus Orviston is a young fly fisherman who leaves behind his comically schizoid family to find his own path. Taking refuge in a remote cabin, he sets out in pursuit of the Pacific Northwest's elusive steelhead. But what begins as a physical quarry becomes a spiritual one as his quest for self-knowledge batters him with unforeseeable experiences.

Profoundly reflective about our connection to nature and to one another, The River Why is also a comedic rollercoaster. Like Gus, the reader emerges utterly changed, stripped bare by the journey Duncan so expertly navigates.

About the Author

David James Duncan is the author of the novels The River Why and The Brothers K, the story collection River Teeth, and two nonfiction collections. His work has appeared in numerous national anthologies, including Best American Essays (twice), Best American Sportswriting, and Best American Spiritual Writing (five times). Duncan is widely renowned as an activist and expert fly fisher. He lives with his family in western Montana.

Praise For…

Praise for The River Why:

"A whirlwind, madcap, humorous and sensitive novel"—New York Times

"A hymn to the waters of the earth and the wholeness of life. It is also funny."—Miami Herald

"A veritable epic of flyfishing... done in a high-velocity, exuberant style, sprawling in scale, heedless of form... The feeling for and evocation of the imperiled natural world is rhapsodic in its intensity; the writing energetic, literary in a distinctly American way... So amiable is the prevailing tone that the flowing narrative is able to absorb Koranic and Eastern mysticisms, Tao, Sufism, Zen-the religions of oneness and gospel of love-without turning into the kind of maudlin choral chanting that so often disfigures treatments of fusion of self and the world."—Publishers Weekly

This is a modern-repeat, modern -tale of maturity and redemption.—Christian Science Monitor
Product Details
ISBN: 9780316261227
ISBN-10: 031626122X
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Publication Date: March 29th, 2016
Pages: 432
Language: English