While father and son fishing trips can be the stuff of American legend, they can also turn out to be the stuff of anger, love and self-discovery. In his memoir of a fishing trip through the Alaskan wilderness, Lou Ureneck brings to life the struggle to reclaim the trust of his teenage son, Adam, following his divorce. Told against the backdrop of the Alaskan wilds, Backcast is the remembrance of a fishing trip that carried a father and son from the mountains of Alaska to the Bering Sea. Along the way, nature transforms from friend into foe, and their struggles are played out against the poignant emotional battle raging between the two as they descend the river headed toward confrontation. On their journey, the two encounter nature's dangers bears, violent river currents and ruthless, punishing weather as well as the hurts that exist between them, the reasons for divorce, the absence of a father and the withheld love of a son. Dipping his hand into the river of his own life, Ureneck recounts his own fatherless childhood, the influence of his mother's boyfriend who helped him learn to fish, and the realization that he himself had done the one thing he always promised himself he would not do: He ended his marriage in divorce. Part adventure story, part reconciliation with life's unexpected turns, and part commentary on the healing power of nature, "Backcast" explores the world of a man confronted by the hard choices divorce can bring to create a moving meditation on fatherhood.
In the wake of divorce, Ureneck (Journalism/Boston Univ.) tries to reconcile with his college-bound son and his own past during a ten-day fishing trip in the Alaska wilderness. The author and son Adam glided down the salmon-rich Kanektok River aboard a rented rubber raft in late August 2000, but most of this thoughtful, engaging memoir actually unfolds in central New Jersey and Maine. Ureneck recalls a lonely nomadic childhood in sleepy Garden State towns like Spotswood and New Brunswick, raised by his fiercely loving Greek mother and disappointed by two different fathers, both ruined by drink. His second father, a hard-living merchant-marine sailor named John Kababick, helped foster his love of fishing but also did things like lose four months' pay in one day at Monmouth Racetrack. Kababick eventually disappeared just as the author's biological father had. When Ureneck's own marriage began to dissolve years later in the Maine woods, he hoped to minimize Adam's anger and resentment by taking a long-promised fishing trip to Alaska. The strategy proved only marginally successful. His sullen, precocious son clearly resented the breakup of the family, and if Ureneck ever attempted to explain his reasons to Adam, he doesn't provide that crucial conversation here. Nor do we ever get the boy's reaction to Dad's new girlfriend, a New York Times reporter he met while on sabbatical from his job as a Maine newspaper editor. When not dwelling too obsessively on his unraveled marriage, however, Ureneck generally proves an intelligent tour guide, offering lovely descriptions of the morning mist shrouding a wilderness river, or the glare of a mother bear when she and a cub are startled by an approachingriver raft. More memoir and less Alaska adventure than the subtitle suggests, but still an enjoyable, heartfelt narrative. Agent: Wendy Strothman/Strothman Agency, LLC