October 6, 2022

JCPL book review: “Big Fish” by Daniel Wallace | Arts & Entertainment

Read Time:2 Minute, 52 Second


Are you looking for a light read to kick-start your summer? If so, Daniel Wallace’s novel “Big Fish” is the book for you!

“Big Fish” follows narrator William Bloom, who is coming to terms with the imminent death of Edward, his ailing father. Edward has always been a teller of tall tales, but even on his deathbed he portrays himself through stories as a larger-than-life, mythical being. From taming a wild giant to riding atop a foot-long catfish, nothing has ever been impossible for Edward.

The legend that Edward claims to be, however, opens an ever-growing chasm between himself and his son. As William grieves the inevitable, he also laments how little he knows about his father and attempts to salvage the truth amid a sea of fiction.

While William aims to remain pragmatic, he cannot help but wonder if the stories are true. What if Edward truly is a big fish in a small pond?

Through this lighthearted story, Wallace shows us the complex relationship between a mourning son and his absent father. William desires a deep connection, while Edward dodges every attempt to establish one. Although his tall tales agitate his son, they also teach him that life doesn’t have to be taken so seriously.

I commend Wallace for his vibrant prose. His vivid descriptions of scenery 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 beginning to end he communicates in jokes and one-liners, which keeps William at arm’s length. I found myself thinking, “Just talk to your son!”

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But perhaps I overlooked Wallace’s goal. For a man of legendary stature, Edward’s reluctance to be vulnerable reveals his humanness. Although Wallace depicts Edward as an almost perfect figure, it becomes evident that Edward does have flaws. Thus, he connects to his son in the one way he knows how: through fanciful accounts that emphasize his mythos and zest for life.

The One Story, One Community Reading Initiative

Johnson City Public Library has chosen “Big Fish” for its One Story, One Community reading initiative. One Story, One Community is meant to unite people around one book. The program runs from May 13-July 28.

People can get a physical copy of “Big Fish” for free by calling 423-434-4454 or stopping by the library at 100 W. Millard St. The book is also available for instant ebook and audiobook borrowing through hoopla digital.

In addition to providing copies of the novel, the library will hold community events throughout the summer that tie into the story, including book discussion groups; an author talk with Daniel Wallace; a screening of the 2003 film adaptation; and workshops on storytelling and collecting family histories.

About the reviewer

Andrea Hyder is an Adult Services library clerk at Johnson City Public Library, where she answers people’s questions, assists with technology, and creates book bundles. Her love for reading began when she discovered encyclopedias as a child, and it hasn’t waned since. Her favorite books are usually nonfiction, but she enjoys horror novels as well.

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