The story is very original and I can see the author is very talent. We can read it as a collection of short stories or a full novel. It presents different approaches to understand the tragedy of human being.
The author develops the story in a very unique structure:
Ichthyology: Roy’s father killed himself-Roy’s aquarium experience is very scary and cruel, the death of fish, the way they treat the death fish reflects the ugly side of Death-the feeling of anger and bewilderment-The death of his father created massive problem and it is natural that Roy would hate his father.
But why his father kill himself? What made him to do so? Is there a reason?
Rhoda: in this story, Roy gave us an account of his father’s 2nd marriage. His father married Rhoda after divorced Roy’s mother. Could this marriage saved him? There is a vivid account of Rhoda’s parents as well. These old couples are even worse, they obviously hating each other to death. This horrible relationship might have negative influence on the newly wed.-Roy’s father will fail his 2nd marriage. Will this lead to his suicide?
A Legend of Good Men: (I really enjoy this part) Roy’s mother started seeing all sort of men after divorce but none of the relationship stood long.-is there any problem between mum and dad? is it possible that the failure of dad’s career and marriage part of mum’s responsibility? Roy’s shooting street lights and anti-society behavior may be a kind of resentment toward his mum?-marriage doesn’t work might not because the guy is not good–there should be something else beyond logical understanding-why love dies? why people change?
Sukkwan Island(the longest story): This story is quite bizarre. Roy’s father took him to live in a remote area in Alaska. They built smoker, fishing, eating simple food, revenge on the bear who stole their food etc. The life in Alaska is tough but at the same times amazing. Father and son came closer but there was hidden tension building up. It led to the breakdown of the father and suicide of the son. And no one believed the son was not murdered by the father. Some people said this is a revenge of the author on his dad but I doubt so. Maybe the author wishes his father’s death can be avoided. He could do something to stop this. He could even die for his father and how much he wishes his father would know he cared for him.
Ketchikan and Higher Blue: The grown up Roy has tried to reconnect with his father in all sort of ways. The imagine of his father was no longer a mere loser but a human being who had love and hate, who had tried to reach to happiness but failed. He was not a strong man, he could not handle the stress of work and disillusion of relationship. But he had long for love and freedom, he has tried to build a new life but overlook the risk and practical side. He is a sad man and now he is in peace. His ex wives, lover, and his children survived. So why not forgive him? It is time to let it go, good or bad.
Roy came to an understanding that we are not perfect,even the parents themselves are poor sad ones that may not be able to handle all sorts of problems. They are not heroes, they have their weakness and they will die, inevitable, just like everyone of us. The tragedy of human being lies in the far-reached fate, cruel but true, like animals in Alaska, ruled by nature, striving to survive.