John Maclean gave us a gift with Home Waters: A Chronicle of Family and a River, and I am eternally grateful. Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye tells us, “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”
Maclean’s book fills in so many of the blanks from his father’s classic work without sounding as if he were capitalizing on a trend. He adds the details we wish we knew before without taking away the romantic quality of A River Runs Through It. While Norman Maclean’s work is, in my opinion, literary perfection, his son’s book does not detract from that perfection by filling in the details Norman felt were able to be omitted. Instead, John is rewarding us with sharing some family secrets we’ve been wondering about.
John Maclean is an accomplished writer of great purpose. I appreciate each of his books on wildland fires, so this book wasn’t necessarily something he had to do. However, now older than his father when A River Runs Through It was first released, I believe he too wanted to feel the sense of completion that came from telling the story.
Holden Caulfield’s sentiment certainly rang true for me with Norman Maclean’s novella, and as a Montanan, a writer, and a fly fisherman who picked up a rod long before his story graced the silver screen, I looked for any background information available on Maclean’s work. As a senior at the University of Montana I wrote a lengthy paper on the novel and its author—going so far as to research specific areas of the Blackfoot River, Paul’s death, and Missoula of bygone days.
As a high school American Literature teacher and outdoorsman in Montana, I’ve enjoyed teaching Norman Maclean’s writing to students and happy to add my own research into the discussion. I love it when a student sends pictures of fishing the Blackfoot or when a particular passage hits later in life. I definitely plan to use this book in class, and have already ordered THREE additional copies of this book for friends and family.
Don’t expect this to be The Further Adventures of Norman and Paul Maclean; this book is so much more. It’s what you would talk about with John Maclean if you could call him up at any time—as Holden Caulfield tells us.
I appreciate this book so much, and I feel grateful to John Maclean for the gift. He’s a good man, and he has given a treasure.