Chronicles of a Bering Sea Captain

An engaging window into an exotic life with flashes of elucidation that offer additional insights.

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A debut memoir celebrating an Alaskan author’s adventures during a life at sea.

Five decades in the fishing industry provide considerable fodder for colorful stories, and Jacobsen takes full advantage of his various seafaring roles to serve up a collection of lively vignettes. Born into a fishing family, he started plying the waters of the Bering Sea with his father at the age of 7. He has an eye for detail and the ability to weave many a short tale as he recounts his experiences, mostly as a crab fisherman in a fishery that he says “would later become known as the most dangerous fishery in the world.” Along the way, he faced the unexpected, including injuries, mechanical mishaps, oil spills, rogue waves, and crusty characters. His first-person narrative is honest, descriptive, and intimate, and one can’t help but feel the drama, danger, vitality, and humor of a fisherman’s existence. Although each brief chapter is essentially a stand-alone reminiscence, strong themes of resilience and survival run throughout the book. At times, the writing is raw and unadulterated, but there’s a fair amount of reflection, as well. One Christmas at sea, for example, weather conditions were particularly nasty, and Jacobsen sought solace in his bunk. The foreman timidly approached him on behalf of the men, who felt sympathy for him and wanted him to “pray over dinner.” The author recalls that he realized that he was “wallowing in self-pity” when “There were others who hurt, others who missed family, and others who had needs I had neglected.” His other observations are no less telling. While describing how fishermen eat at a restaurant, for instance, he writes “you may observe people wrapping their left arm around the top of their plate, often while the left-hand tightly grips a glass. They are fishermen, securing their dinner from sliding across the table.”

An engaging window into an exotic life with flashes of elucidation that offer additional insights.

Pub Date: April 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5236-3954-0

Page Count: 232

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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