The love of fly fishing has fueled more than one good story: think A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT or THE RIVER WHY. In WIND RIVER, a short but pithy faith fiction novel (maybe better called a novella), adventure writer Tom Morrisey turns his pen to the story of an old fly fisherman and mountaineer and a young boy he once tutored, now a man, who is haunted by an incident from the war that threatens his chance at happiness. Themes of forgiveness --- especially forgiving yourself --- and the cost of honesty, the importance of taking responsibility for your actions, the power of friendship and faith are woven together against the beautiful backdrop of Wyoming.
Tyler “Ty” Perkins has returned to the mountains ostensibly to take his failing 86-year-old friend Soren Andeman on a promised fly-fishing trip to Clear Lake, but Tyler is really trying to escape his own nightmarish memories of a fatal incident in Iraq. Hoping that the man he admires can help him make sense of his life, Tyler discovers that Soren also is in need of help to face up to a wrong he committed long ago --- the secret of which lies in a high mountain trout lake.
Fans of IN HIGH PLACES won’t find the same sort of cliffhanging suspense here --- rather a quieter, sedately paced story with its own share of twists and turns. Morrisey, a seasoned adventure-travel writer whose articles have appeared in Outside and other magazines, has written about everything from rock climbing to scuba diving to automobile racing, and his knowledge of the outdoors is in full force here. Occasionally, the narrative takes on an overly instructional tone (as when Soren talks about photographing birds). However, backpackers and fly fishermen will enjoy the details he brings to his narrative, from fly fishing methods and lures to the best way to pack fresh eggs for a trip or brew coffee at a campsite.
But you don’t have to be a backpacker or a fly fisherman to enjoy a good story, and Morrisey keeps the pages turning, albeit slowly in places. Soren is a treasure trove of wisdom and often humor. One funny example: When Ty feels guilt over breaking the heart of a girl in his past, Soren tells him, “That all? You break your arm, that’s four, maybe six weeks of mending. Break a leg, it’s eight weeks. Sometimes more. But a broken heart? Right thing happens, that can be plumb gone by morning.”
The contrasts between Ty, a young man at the height of his strength, and Soren, an old man who doesn’t have long to live, play out well in the story, as do the contrasts in their outdoorsmanship. One hilarious scene shows Soren sleeping outside in a neatly rigged tarp-as-bivy-sack, staying bone dry in a pounding rainstorm, while Ty, who attempts the same thing, is soaked. What both men share is ethical dilemmas over past actions, each that cost lives, as they grapple with their responsibility for their actions and the best way to make restitution and forgive themselves. Edna, Soren’s wife, sums up the heart of the book when she tells Ty, “Truth is freedom, and lies enslave us… the truth will set you free.” The ending is a bit messy, without all the loose ends wrapped up, which will appeal to some readers and may leave others frustrated.
Those who enjoy a thoughtful story with a faith-based message, lightly applied, coupled with plenty of beautiful nature lore and scenery, should find Morrisey’s latest tale much to their liking.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on July 1, 2008