By Dan Berne
Family means everything to widowed Alaskan fisherman Ray Bancroft, raising his granddaughter while battling storms, invasive species, and lawsuit happy tourists. To navigate, and to catch enough crab to feed her college fund, Ray seeks help from a multitude of gods and goddesses – not to mention ad-libbed rituals performed at sea by his half-Tlingit best friend. But kitchen counter statues and otter bone ceremonies aren’t enough when his estranged daughter returns from prison, swearing she’s clean and sober. Her search for a safe harbor threatens everything Ray holds sacred. Set against a backdrop of ice and mud and loss, this debut novel explores the unpredictable fissures of memory, and how families can break apart, even in the midst of healing.
** Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publicist in exchange for an honest review **
When I first got the email about this book, I was instantly intrigued. I’ve been trying to read more mythology and books about mythology lately and this book seemed perfect.
And it was.
The Gods of Second Chances was a beautifully written narrative about family. The characters were unique and expertly drawn: the hardened, widower fisherman, his tough, wise beyond her years granddaughter, his wounded drug addict daughter, and all the other friends and enemies that color Ray’s life.
I loved the Alaskan setting, a beautiful, but harsh land, where one mistake could spell death. I also loved the description of the boat and all the details about crabbing. It made the book feel very vivid while not slowing down the action. The story was energetic and moved quickly along to the conclusion.
I most enjoyed Ray’s obsessions with the Gods of various religions and beliefs and the rituals he practices to keep his family and loved ones safe. Out in Alaska and especially on the sea, you need all the help you can get. And still, for all his beliefs and superstitions, it isn’t enough when his wayward daughter, Jenny, returns.
My favorite character was Sitka. Resilient and smart, despite all the hardships life has thrown her, she was a character I could really connect with. At times she seemed a little too old and wise for the age she was supposed to be, but overall it wasn’t distracting.
On another note, the edition I had, had beautiful illustrations of Alaska wildlife: killer whales, seals, and more, done in the sort of traditional art style one would associate with Alaska.
This book is definitely in the running for one of my favorite books I’ve read so far. Definitely recommended! I look forward to reading more from Dan Berne in the future.