Ruin: A Novel of Flyfishing in Bankruptcy by Leigh Seippel: 3.5-4****

I didn’t know what to expect when I received this book that had a fish on the front cover. I have never been a fisherman, I’ve never understood the lure of fishing, but The title was intriguing and so I decided to give it a try. This is certainly not a book for a casual reader, it took me almost a month to get through this, but in the end it’s a book that has a great lasting power with me and it seems that every few days I am bringing up this book in conversation or thinking about some of the insights that author Leigh Seippel has given us.

            The back story is rather simple. A gentleman is caught up in a financial scandal which has cost his clients hundreds of millions of dollars, he has had to declare bankruptcy and now is escaping to upstate New York with his wife to start his life anew. If it were only this simple! Along the way we discover that not only did he lose his clients monies, he also lost all of his wife’s inheritance with the exception of this rundown farm in upstate New York. While there he bumps into a group of fly fisherman and eventually he and his wife go to the fishermen’s luncheon and we get to meet a whole host of interesting characters. But that’s not all, he also bumps into  Harry, a black gentleman, who is escaping his own problems in Alabama which stemmed from the brewery that his family had in that state. Our protagonist, frank Campbell, strikes up a friendship with Harry and eventually the two of them open their own brewery at the farm.

            Along the way we are given insights into human nature, and looking beyond the surface of things, and realizing that many individuals are multi layered and just because you see something at face level, there may be a much deeper story involving that person. I classify this book as literary fiction and partially philosophy because it makes us think about our lives, our friendships, and what we really know about each other. Frank’s wife has resumed her career as a painter and has retaken her maiden name so as to avoid the stigma of the last name Campbell. Other people have changed their names so if they are Googled you will not find anything about them. One individual, a doctor, tells frank one thing, and yet tells other people other things about how to flyfish. Along the way we also see friendships, jealousies and dislike for others. but there is even more beneath the surface as eventually certain individuals die and Frank, himself, is considered a suspect.

            There are many literary references in this book, as Frank was a college literature major, and I especially enjoy the fact that near the end of the book we get a lot of discussion about Anthony Trollope. If you’re not familiar with Trollope he is my favorite Victorian author, he is more prodigious in terms of writing than Charles Dickens, and to be quite honest with you he is much easier to read than Dickens. But most of us have never heard about Trollope and therefore a discussion of that author warmed the cockles of my heart. By the end of the book Frank is a changed person who even gets back into the financial industry but with a new outlook on life.

            This is not a simple read, but it is a book that challenges us, and the more I think about it the more I enjoyed the book. In addition to this review you should spend a few moments reading my interview with the author. It’s quite insightful, and announces that his next book is going to be a comedic look at the works of Izaak Walton considered by many to be the father of flyfishing. I would expect no less from Leigh Seippel!

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