Written by: James Keen
In author Amy K. Marshall’s preface to ‘The Fishing Widow’ there’s a declaration of sorts; this is not a work of fiction that is attempting to establish a new mythology, rather to incorporate time-worn tales of supernatural sea-going tragedies and fashion them into an engaging story within a modern context. The writer’s ambition is an attractively commendable one and to a large extent Marshall’s narrative does just that, regurgitating old myths and fusing them into a story wholly her own. However Marshall’s intent is at times sabotaged by her limitations as a storyteller, which is repetitive in descriptive terms and certainly suffers from a reliance on bathos to execute the story. This is engaging in technical terms but its narrative impact is diminished by breathless soap-opera drama and the dynamics associated with that particular mode of literary expression.
Opening with an atmospheric and portentous prologue that will have many readers nervously plucking at the pages, Marshall’s narrative sets up an intriguing premise for the characters we’re about to spend the bulk of the book with. Colin Clayburgh is a young Anchorage-born fisherman, mired in debt thanks to his purchase of his fishing seine the 58′ workboat ‘The Case In Point’. Along with his friend Ethan and a varied crew they’re desperate to make their fortunes during the upcoming March fishing opening off the coast of Alaska. Marshall’s tale swiftly takes a dip towards the sinister when it appears there’s something altogether more fearsome is inhabiting the frigidly cold waters. After an outstanding initial haul it becomes clear that ‘The Case In Point’ may be cursed with life-threatening events constantly dogging their already arduous trip.
Marshall’s story is understandably laden with the ephemera of modern fishing life; from the gear used, the techniques appropriated to secure their hauls and this reviewer found the aspects of the story dealing with the arena of ‘combat fishing’ entirely fascinating. Sadly, after a strong build-up of narrative tension the author’s literary limitations become painfully obvious with descriptive abilities limited to the jarringly basic and the constant repetitive use of the same adverbs. Also the reader should be prepared for a great deal of chuckling, laughing, howling and sobbing. A great deal of sobbing. The melodramatic elements are heaped to overload as the tale spins out and there are odd jarring shifts in character perspectives that a more astute editor should have corrected.
Written with obvious affection for the fishing communities’ customs and rituals and laced with a supernatural tone, it’s unfortunate that Marshall’s tale eventually devolves into horror genre cliches and plainly predictable narrative turns.
Grab the book right here.