In his debut novel, Corea tells the story of a man’s attempt to unite a friend with his estranged family during a hunt for a legendary fish.
Dominic has had a hard life. Abandoned at a Buffalo, New York, orphanage by his parents when he was 10, he was harassed by his peers and teachers for his mental slowness. He ran away and worked as a migrant laborer on an onion farm, where the torment he suffered at the hands of his fellow workers was even more ghastly. Years later, he still has nightmares about his time on “the Muck.” Dominic has finally found a happy home in the town of Fairchester, New York, working at Hawk’s Deli. His best friends and protectors are the Hawk, the deli’s proprietor, and Augie, a generous local bartender. They treat him as an equal and make sure everyone else does the same. When Augie takes a job in Chicago and an accident leaves the Hawk in a coma, Dominic’s position in this friendly bubble is at risk. However, Augie thinks he may have found a new family to fill the hole in Dominic’s life: his original family, the one who left Dominic at the orphanage decades ago. All will be decided by one final fishing trip to catch Scarback, a legendary fish with a $1 million bounty. Set in the 1950s, this sentimental story basks in rosy nostalgia. Characters are big, loud personalities, full of zingers and colorful slang. Their affection for one another (and the author’s affection for each of them) all but oozes off the page. The whole novel feels a bit like Corea is telling it from a bar stool: “One thing was for sure: he never kept his opinions a secret, nor did he worry about offending the clientele.” As literary fiction, it struggles to provoke much thought, but as literary comfort food, it satisfies quite well.A pleasant, old-fashioned tale that invites readers to check their cynicism.