Big Fish


Something lovely and magical happened to me as I read Big Fish, by Daniel Wallace (my second book for Maggie’s Southern Reading Challenge). There were two stories going on in my head as I read…the story in the book about a father and his son coming to terms with the father’s impending death, and trying to understand each other and their relationship…And the story of my own experience with my father’s death and dying, and the processing of that all-important relationship in my life. I guess that’s what really good books do–they touch something deep inside us and trigger a whole new understanding of ourselves and our experiences. And that’s what myth does, also. It helps us understand more about being human. So this little book of stories, humor, and exaggeration, has the perfect subtitle: “A Novel of Mythic Proportions.”

I’ll have to read the book again, because this first time through ended up being all about my own dad. There were so many things that reminded me of him, and yet this book was not our story. But still…my Dad had a wicked sense of humor, even on his deathbed…my Dad was a Big Fish in that he touched so many lives and meant so much to so many people…my Dad was a wonderful storyteller and his stories became the fabric of the family mythology… And I struggled, too, to understand the man behind the humor and the stories, to come to terms with being his daughter, and to understand the gifts and the foibles he passed along to me.

“Remembering a man’s stories makes him immortal, did you know that?”


“I think” I say after a while, waiting for the right words to come, “that if a man could be said to be loved by his son, then I think that man could be considered great.”

Big Fish, by Daniel Wallace, is a short little book with a huge heart, and is a poignant gift to all of us who have lost a beloved parent.

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21 thoughts on “Big Fish

  1. Maggie

    This is so touching. Thank you for sharing and being so open with your emotional readings.

    Is that you dad in the knee pants? So cute! πŸ˜€

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  2. Gentle Reader

    What a lovely post. I love when you say, “I guess that’s what really good books do–they touch something deep inside us and trigger a whole new understanding of ourselves and our experiences”–I treasure the books that do this. Thanks!

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  3. Kay

    What a lovely tribute. I’m not sure I knew that “Big Fish” was a book. I had just seen the notices of the movie. I do know that you mean about “good books”. It’s hard to pull yourself away from them and even harder to begin the next book. The thoughts and feelings remain wrapped around us. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Robin

    Thanks, Kay. I saw the movie a few years ago, but I’ll have to rent it and watch it again now that I’ve read the book and liked it so much.

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  5. Bookfool

    Oh, wow. The book sounds fabulous and the photos are wonderful. This whole post was such a lovely tribute to your father. I didn’t realize Big Fish was a Southern book. Does it take place in the South or was it just written by a Southerner?

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  6. Robin

    Thanks, Bookfool.
    It was a very enjoyable read, and, yes, it was written by an Alabama author, and was set in Alabama!

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  7. Nymeth

    I’m very sorry for the loss of your father, Robin. But this was a beautiful and touching post, and a lovely tribute to his memory.

    Daniel Wallace is a wonderful writer, isn’t he? I can only imagine how much more powerful the book must for those who relate to it, but even I, who fortunately have not lost a parent, was incredibly touched by it. I find his writing so poignant. I constantly tear up when reading his books.

    I also really recommend his book “The Watermelon King”.

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  8. Robin

    Thanks, Nymeth. Yes, I loved Daniel Wallace’s writing and sensitivity in this book. I’m looking forward to reading more of his books–I looked for The Watermelon King at the bookstore this week but they didn’t have it in, so I ordered it from the library.

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  9. Robin

    Bookfool,
    That’s a great description–“burrow around” and find your copy. My husband has just spent much of the weekend sorting through his books. I think “burrowing” really describes it better…I’m going to share that with him. He’ll get a kick out of it. Thanks!

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  10. Bellezza

    The movie made me cry. It could have been the story of my own dear father, who Praise the Lord, is still here with us.

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  11. Bellezza

    p.s. When it’s time to say a (temporary until Heaven) good-bye, I suspect I’ll need lessons from you on handling the grief.

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  12. Robin

    Bellezza,
    Thanks for your kind words. I’ve got the movie on our queue, and am looking forward to seeing it again. I remember liking it very much, but I wonder how I’ll like it this time compared to the book?

    You can see that I’m still handling the loss of my Dad, 13 years later. And it’s really nice to be able to share some of the special things about him.
    There are many things that have brought me solace in those years, but the biggest solace is memory–of all those big and little things that I enjoyed about him while he was with us, and the fact that I was able to let him know how much he meant to me. So, from the bottom of my heart: Enjoy your Dad and treasure that relationship while he’s still with you.

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  13. Nan -

    What a wonderful, wonderful note, Robin. I think the father and daughter relationship is so important for both. Our daughter loves her dad so much. They are alike in many ways, and all the things that drive me crazy just make her say, “oh, dad.” :< ) He knows he is a lucky, blessed man. As was your dad.

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