Book Review, Fiction, Review, Women's Fiction

Book Review: ‘Fishing!’, by Sarah Stonich

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About the Author, Sarah Stonich

Sarah Stonich been awarded a number of grants, including a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship and a Loft McKnight Fellowship.  Her first novel, There Granite Islands, was translated to eight languages and was short-listed for France’s prestigious Grand Prix de lectrices d’Elle.  Her second novel The Ice Chorus has been re-issued in paperback by Alma Books of England, distributing it in English language markets worldwide.

About the Book, Fishing!

Having fled the testosterone-soaked world of professional sport fishing, thirty-something RayAnne Dahl is navigating a new job as a consultant for the first all-women talk show about fishing on public television (or, as one viewer’s husband puts it, “Oprah in a boat”). After the host bails, RayAnne lands in front of the camera and out of her depth at the helm of the show. Is she up for the challenge? Meanwhile, her family proves as high-maintenance as her fixer-upper house and her clingy rescue dog. Her dad, star of the one-season Big Rick’s Bass Bonanza, is on his sixth wife and falling off the wagon and into RayAnne’s career path; her mother, a new-age aging coach for the menopausal rich, provides endless unwanted advice; and her beloved grandmother Dot—whose advice RayAnne needs—is far away and far from well.

But as RayAnne says, “I’m a woman, I fish. Deal with it.” And just when things seem to be coming together—the show is an unlikely hit; she receives the admiration of a handsome sponsor (out of bounds as he is, but definitely in the wings); ungainly house and dog are finally in hand—RayAnne’s world suddenly threatens to capsize, and she’s faced with a gut-wrenching situation and a heartbreaking decision.

First published in 2015 under a pseudonym, this first installment in a trilogy filled with hilarity and heartbreak unspools with the gentle wit and irresistible charm that readers of Sarah Stonich have come to expect. Fishing! eases us into unsuspected depths as it approaches the essential question . . . when should life be steered by the heart, not the rules?

Review of Fishing!, by Sarah Stonich

Fishing! could have been a chick lit, but I feel it stays firmly in women’s fiction as it focuses not on the romance in the book, but on its female characters, who are engaging, deeply flawed, and human.  It is at times a little exaggerated, but remains breezy while retaining the ability, for readers wishing for it, to be a source of great insight and learning, as it deals with a question all of us have to face, sometimes a couple of times in our lives: what do we do when our carefully laid out plans and all our efforts come crashing down around us?

I enjoy reading stories which, although typical at heart (woman figuring out her career in a male-dominated world while dealing with family and friends), are set within an unfamiliar (at least to me), interesting, yet relatively simple context.  In this case, RayAnne’s world of television is nothing like the glitz and glamour with the dark underside that I have come to expect.  It’s a small television station with a humble audience and local stars with limited star power.  The unusual setting helps underline the universal struggles at the heart of RayAnne’s story, struggles that most women will relate to.

For example: making it as a woman in a world still very much led by men, a world that tends to dehumanize and objectify us.  Who hasn’t been told to change something about their physique?  In RayAnne’s case, it’s her weight; in my case, it was my hair (my curls were not serious enough).  A friend of mine told me how she was the only one to get the once-over of her outfit by top (male) management because although she wears pretty much the same thing as everyone else, she happens to have large breasts.  There is also RayAnne’s struggles with her crazy family; how many of us have had to deal with, erm, interesting choices that some of the members of the previous generation of the family make later on in their lives?  But Stonich doesn’t dwell on this; just like in real life, it comes at her character just like it comes at us, but then we have to deal with the next thing on our plate, with this incident lingering at the back of our minds, piling into a weight that we have to carry with us.  Then there are all the issues that the guests on her show carry with them, which present snapshots of the suffering that surround us.

Knowing nothing about television, fishing, or fishing shows made RayAnne’s struggles all the more poignant and relatable.  A familiar setting can becomes distracting as anything that doesn’t sit right with it according to the reader’s experience can distract my reading mind.

There are a lot of lighthearted moments, as well as a good number of laugh-out-loud moments.  The challenges RayAnne’s brother faces has in dealing with his kids was very on point for this mama, and made me cringe-laugh.  “Oprah in a book” RayAnne’s story is worth the read and hopefully will give every reader the gift of insight into a challenge (or more!) that they are facing in their own lives.

 

Check out my bookstagram for reviews of Fishing! by Sarah Stonich and other books!

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