Giving the Finger

Giving the Finger: Risking It All to Fish the World’s Deadliest Sea
Scott Campbell
Lyons Press, 264 pages (hardback, 2014)

I am a sucker for a good book about a way of life, especially when tied into a biography, which is my preferred reading material anyway. I have always been fascinated by human beings and their life stories. Even as a kid fond memories surround listening to old people tell me about life in the 1920’s, 30’s, etc… This book combines a basic introduction to the fisheries of Alaska with the general bad life decisions that usually end with you working on a salmon tender in Kodiak and then the things that happen when you grow up.

Naturally athletic, alcoholic neglective mother, demanding, yet loving father the early life of Scott Campbell, better known as one of the captains on the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch was far from easy, but fairly predictable amid the situation he was born to in a small Oregon town across the river from Walla Walla, Washington. The opening chapters of the book take you from this precarious beginning to the normal hijinks of an unattended only child whose dad spends most of his time fishing for cod, crab, and salmon. Amazed that he lived through it he soon marries his high school sweetheart and then goes on to, unsurprisingly, treat her poorly (not physically), but like his father before him, leave her by herself with a young daughter, to go booze with friends after being gone for six months working on the Bering Sea. After a lot of stops and starts Mr. Campbell finally makes it as a boat captain and then wastes his new found money on toys and a far too big house. The work ends with a wiser, remarried (to his first wife), and older Scott Campbell who has figured out what it means to be a father and a husband.

A common theme throughout the book is regret. The author never once protects his own ego or defends himself from sharp, and correct, criticism of his younger self. It would be easy to excuse the reality of the hard life at sea, but even when speaking of his divorce he only blames himself. One of the other currents is the fact his dad’s advice, always ignored, was always correct. He gives thanks with the eyes of providence of the things his father made him do, even when he was away. You get the sense that the reason why Grandpa Campbell did what he did (buying an apple farm) was meant to teach his son real work and the rigors of real life in a way he could not while away fishing for 8 months out of the year.

If you like books about fishing, biographies, and general life experience in exotic locations this book is for you. There is some adult language and this is certainly not a book for those seeking advice on how to get into crab fishing so this book is recommended with that very minor caveat.

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