Never Cry Hal­ibut: And Other Alaskan Hunt­ing & Fish­ing Tales

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - JEREMIAH ROOD

Bjorn Dihle Alaska North­west Books (APRIL) Soft­cover $16.99 (200pp), 978-1-5132-6092-1

Bjorn Dihle’s fine es­says speak to the great­ness of the Alaskan out­doors.

When he was young, Dihle’s par­ents de­cided to move from Sacra­mento to Juneau, Alaska. His es­says loosely chron­i­cle his ad­ven­tures from grow­ing up there, in­clud­ing hunt­ing his first deer, learn­ing to fish, and ex­plor­ing the world around him. The book is peo­pled by Dihle’s fam­ily and friends, who teach him much and who try to keep him from run­ning off on too many hare­brained schemes.

It pretty quickly be­comes clear that the true star of the book is Alaska’s land and the won­ders that sur­round Dihle in that great wilder­ness. Writ­ing moves ef­fort­lessly from de­scrip­tions of grand vis­tas to small de­tails of hunt­ing trails, all mixed to­gether with the drama of life and death.

But there’s also the blood and guts of hunt­ing; the shots that Dihle takes are re­lated with at­ten­tion to de­tail. It’s not gra­tu­itous; in Alaska, hunt­ing is a way to har­vest food, to find an ex­cuse to ex­plore na­ture, and to con­nect with fel­low crea­tures.

Most of all, Dihle’s book is funny, and a range of it. There are slap­stick-funny mo­ments— ac­counts of peo­ple fall­ing, trip­ping, and climb­ing trees. There are also puns ga­lore. Pic­ture teenage Dihle en­tranced by “hoot­ers”—mean­ing wood grouse, not the other kind. This book is not high­brow, but it’s not too earthy, ei­ther.

Strong per­sonal es­says need to be about some­thing more than just the per­son telling the story; they need to touch some­thing grander and more im­por­tant than a mo­ment. Never Cry Hal­ibut meets that bar, of­fer­ing a col­lec­tion that speaks to the hu­man need to ex­plore, un­der­stand, and dream about the wilder­ness be­yond our door.

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