Published by Random House on 1989
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Sea Adventures
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Winner of the 1989 National Book Award
A classic tale of a man, a boat, and a storm, Spartina is the lyrical and compassionate story of Dick Pierce, a commercial fisherman along the shores of Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay. A kind, sensitive, family man, he is also prone to irascible outbursts against the people he must work for, now that he can no longer make his living from the sea.
Pierce's one great passion, a fifty-foot fishing boat called Spartina, lies unfinished in his back yard. Determined to get the funds he needs to buy her engine, he finds himself taking a foolish, dangerous risk. But his real test comes when he must weather a storm at sea in order to keep his dream alive. Moving and poetic, Spartina is a masterly story of one man's ongoing struggle to find his place in the world.
This week takes us to Rhode Island with Spartina by John Casey.
Entertainment Weekly says – Dick Pierce works in Narragansett Bay, but his true passion is is the unfinished boat in his backyard. The tale may be standard, but Casey’s lyrical descriptions of the Rhode Island sea are anything but.
“If Rhode Island were a country, it would be part of the Third World. The largest employer is the military. Tourism is the major moneymaker, although most Rhode Islanders benefit from it only in service positions. The bulk of choice real estate is in the form of second homes or resorts run by absentee corporations. “There is a seafaring tradition, and there is—still—a fishing fleet. By comparison to the high-tech factory ships of Russia, East or West Germany, Japan, or the tuna clippers of our own West Coast, the boats and methods are quaint. But it is still possible—barely possible—to wrest a living from the sea.”
Spartina is one of those books that should be a total winner. Poetic writing, vivid descriptions, a real world to sink into.
A blue heron wading in the marsh on her stilts, apparently out for a stroll—suddenly freezing. An imperceptible tilt of her head—her long neck cocking without moving. No, nothing this time. Wade, pose. Abruptly, a new picture—a fish bisected by her bisected beak. Widening ripples, but the heron, the pool, the marsh, the sky serene. The clouds slid across the light, the fish into the dark.
Unfortunately, the main character Dick Pierce was just an ass. He was at first a crusty older man and I was fine with that. He had very much of a him versus the world attitude and believed that anyone from money was to be looked down at. He ran some cons and did a few shady deals, but he did it to support his wife and children. Nothing wrong with that, he was doing his best to survive. Then the story took an turn and I lost all respect for good ol’ Dick. He began to match his name and started a torrid affair with a woman in the neighborhood. First, I hate when adultery is used as a plot point. I have no patience with it and hate reading about it. Second, he had absolutely no remorse about his actions. He did not care if he was going to hurt the woman he promised to cherish or his children. Other stuff happened that was interesting, but I could not move past my hatred of Dick to enjoy the story. In the end he sadly did not get the comeuppance he should have and Dick continued to be just that as he sailed off into the sunset.
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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- The Goodreads Challenge