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Brook Trout and the Writing Life

Craig Nova’s quirky memoir mixes his life as writer, father, and husband in a series of short essays that all revolve around his life as a fly fisher searching for the native brook trout. This reprint and expansion of the original 1999 publication incorporates simple prose with wit and humor. Although predominantly known as a fiction writer, Nova, in a series of twelve non-chronological essays, informs the reader about how he developed his obsession with fly-fishing alongside other stories about his shared passion with friends and family. These essays, with a charming voice, invite the reader to share with Nova in his memories and pieces of advice that enrich the memoir.

Craig Nova’s quirky memoir mixes his life as writer, father, and husband in a series of short essays that all revolve around his life as a fly fisher searching for the native brook trout. This reprint and expansion of the original 1999 publication incorporates simple prose with wit and humor. Although predominantly known as a fiction writer, Nova, in a series of twelve non-chronological essays, informs the reader about how he developed his obsession with fly-fishing alongside other stories about his shared passion with friends and family. These essays, with a charming voice, invite the reader to share with Nova in his memories and pieces of advice that enrich the memoir.

We learn in vivid detail the process of crafting different flies, casting techniques, and the habits and appearance of the brook trout. Nova claims he learned much of his fishing techniques simply from watching. He observes that he has “learned something about the length of leaders and the thickness, too, but all of this, which I learned so slowly and with such effort, came from watching.” With descriptive prose, Nova uses his observational skills to tell of his first encounter with a brook trout. He recalls: “What I remember about catching my first brook trout was that ominous tug of it: sudden, serious, with all the purpose that millions of years of evolution can bring to one small act.” After he catches the trout, he describes “dark squiggles on its back, a line of red dots on its side” and the “gray sparkle and red dots” of its flanks. These descriptions lend a sense of detailed and tight prose among essays that possess more of a conversational tone.

Alongside the brook trout, Nova recalls life experiences as writer, husband, and father, with each essay accompanied by family photographs. He describes writing his second novel: “I sat alone in a room and looked at the pages I had written. Hands sweating. Money running out.” Nova even doles out advice about the writing life, adding a rooted dimension to a world that at times may not seem so real. He reminds readers and fellow writers alike that “a large part of the work is not between you and the book you are writing but also between you and the people who publish it and represent you.” Once again, fishing for the brook trout never seems far off. He thinks of his wife as he eats a meal of brook trout, saying, “I thought of the gorge, of Christina’s hand emerging from the shadows and the shining leaves.” Later, he shows his daughter Abbey how to fish. He catches the fish on the first cast, with “all the urgency of a promise being kept.”

Nova always returns to fly fishing whenever he needs inspiration. In the second essay, with a newborn child and catching a snag in writing a novel, his wife advises him to go fishing, telling him, “We always seem to see things more clearly after you come back from the river.” And the common thread of fly fishing provides the hook for this memoir, threading various events together in a series of essays that will entertain with uplifting spirit.

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