In Dybek’s debut novel, Cal Bollings makes a choice, and beyond wisdom and morality, he chooses loyalty.
Fifteen-year-old Cal, son of Henry and Donna, lives on a rain-soaked Loyalty Island on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Henry is captain of the Bering Sea crab boat Laurentide. Donna, who stays at home on Seachase Lane, was a California New Age dabbler and a teacher. One day Donna set out on an impulsive Washington vacation and soon found herself enamored of, and pregnant by, rough-hewn but gentle Henry. It is now summer 1986. John Gaunt has died. With him may die all of the fishing village, all but the rumors of his relationship with Donna Bollings. Gaunt owned the fishing fleet, and the fleet supports the town, but Gaunt never allowed his son and heir, Richard, a life on the sea. At the cusp of the new season, the town confronts Richard’s decision to sell the Gaunt enterprise to the Japanese. Then word circulates that Richard has relented and decided instead to sail north with the fleet. Donna is suspicious, suspecting a plot by Henry and his fellow boat captains. Donna, who is pregnant, argues with Henry and then asks Cal to accompany her to California. He refuses. Henry, pleased, arranges for Cal to board with another captain’s family. A few days after the crab fleet sails, Richard is reported missing at sea. Cal is confused, and grows more mystified when he discovers Richard imprisoned in the basement of the Bollings’ locked home. In this tale of good men “doing unspeakable harm to other people,” Dybek proves himself a observant, appealing writer: “Wind told the branches to tremble.” Adult Cal tells the story, one peopled with multidimensional characters and featuring well-drawn settings. Dybek writes well about family, about relationships and loyalty, about responsibility and community, and about all that passes from father to son.
No Deadliest Catch, but rather literary fiction as morality play.