Most of my readers have probably not ever heard of one of my favorite authors, David James Duncan. Duncan has written just two novels, The River Why and, one of my alltime favorite books, The Brothers K. A few weeks ago I [finally] finished The River Why and I found myself wishing that Mr. Duncan would write more books.
His stories and characters live in the Pacific Northwest, a land I once, though briefly, lived in and did not explore quite well enough. Reading Duncan's books allow me to explore the Northwest in a way that I never would have been able to, had I stayed out there longer than I did. His stories allow the reader to see the top left corner of our nation through the lenses of family and friendship.
Quick synopses: Brothers K: A family of four brothers, two sisters, a Seventh Day Adventist mother, and a legendary minor league pitcher for a father; they all struggle in finding their place in their own family as they come to grips with their own faiths and lives in the midst of minor league baseball seasons and the Veitnam War. From one page to the next: I laughed, cried, repeat. River Why: A young prodigy of a fisher, Gus, is raised by two skilled fishers of two different schools [fly casting and "plunking"], Gus chooses to live life as a fishing hermit on the coast of Oregon. He follows after the understanding of life through fishing, obsession, death, the wild, philosophy and, yes, love.
And that's it. He has some other short stories and essays, but of his novels that punch me in the stomach with humor and meaning and wonder, that's it. Maybe he's at home wondering why I haven't written any novels. Perhaps someday I'll hear that he's written another novel and I'll rejoice. Until then I'll take what I can get and enjoy these two beautiful stories - Mr. Duncan, thanks for writing them. you have my love.