Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Sunday, March 03, 2013

"The Way of the River" -- A Book Review

After reading his previous book, "The Fly Caster Who Tried to Make Peace with the World," I was interested in the next book from author Randy Kadish.  The new book sounded like something I would like to have written.  "The Way of the River" is a title that immediately leaves the would-be reader wondering what exactly that "way" is although the subtitle, "My Journey of Fishing, Forgiveness, and Spiritual Recovery," definitely helps clarify things.  When Mr. Kadish contacted me about reviewing his newest book, I accepted quickly.

While not a complete autobiography, Mr. Kadish invites the reader into some of the more difficult portions of his life.  Diving quickly into the book, I discovered a past of pain and regret as the author visits his mother who is dying of cancer on a nearly daily basis.  These last years of his mother's life bring the opportunity to reconnect on a level that was not possible earlier in his life.  A difficult childhood had left its own scars and pain behind.

And so, he turns to the river in hopes of finding healing and peace.  "Am I hoping to borrow, in some way, strength from the river?" he asks early in the book (p. 11).  This line caught my eye, because when times have been difficult in my life and I had to face painful circumstances, I would often find myself drawn inexplicably towards the streams of the Smokies.  Okay, I can relate to where this guy is coming from, I thought as I began to dig deeper into the book.

One day, while visiting his mother, the author stumbles upon a jewel of wisdom that he passes on to his readers.  She tells him that "You can't let the past write the future," which is something that caused me to pause and evaluate aspects of my own life (p. 10).  Was I really where I wanted to be, and was I headed in the right direction?

The problem of pain that Randy Kadish faces in his life and has now shared with the world is one that anyone who lives on planet earth must eventually face.  Some face deeper hurts than others, but everyone suffers.  As I read the story of one person's journey to recovery, I found myself thinking time and again of "The Problem of Pain," by C.S. Lewis as well as "The Great Controversy," by E.G. White.  Both books provide detailed rationale for the pain experienced in our world, and I found myself wondering what it must be like to confront such a painful past in one's own life.  Mr. Kadish is asking those big questions early in the book.

In explaining about his first time at a Twelve Step meeting, the author says that the "first thing about the Steps I didn't like was the idea of believing in God.  If there was a God, I couldn't understand why He had abandoned me in a violent, dysfunctional home, and why He had abandoned mankind to a succession of bloody wars" (p. 13).

In finding an escape in fly fishing, Randy Kadish was only doing what so many other fly anglers around the world have done.  Whether it is simply getting out of the house and away from a nagging wife, or trying to ease the pain and resentment of the loss of someone you love, many people find fly fishing to be an escape.

Over time, Mr. Kadish begins to find enjoyment in more than just the act of fishing and begins to look forward to the interactions he has with other people while out on the stream or fishing off a pier in the Hudson River.  Again I found myself relating as I remembered the pleasant memories of fishing the Tennessee River below Chickamauga dam.  Eventually, I started to recognize the same anglers each trip.  We would chat and compare notes, never mind that I was a fly angler and most of the others were bait or spin fishermen.  When out on the water these differences can easily be forgotten when everyone is courteous and truly interested in their fellow man.  Mr. Kadish has similar experiences, fishing with people from all walks of life who often have interesting questions about his fishing equipment, but in general accept him as one of their own because he is, after all, a fisherman.

The pain in his life does not prevent him from accepting the small moments of enjoyment that routinely come with any fishing trip.  Some stories are humorous, some contemplative and philosophical while others are sad, but all add up to make the book what it is, an enjoyable read that constantly has the reader wondering where the next step in the journey to recovery will lead the author.

One moment in particular resonated with me as an angler.  The author just finished landing a 12" rainbow trout and begins to wonder how the fish viewed him.  He saw fear in the trout's eyes and wished he could explain that it was a no-kill zone.  This leads him to asking questions about himself.  "Was I as he saw me: a mountain-size monster? (p. 26).  I must admit to wondering these things and not always about fish.  Have you ever found yourself stepping on a bug such as an ant?  Sometimes at such moments I pause and wonder, what if some monster that was larger than me proportionally to the way I am larger than an ant decided to step on me?  What would it be like?  Unable to imagine something that large, I eventually give up trying to figure it out.  But still, what do all those fish think when my grinning face comes close?  I figure they are grinning for me but that may just be my imagination...

Overall I definitely enjoyed reading this book.  In fact, my girlfriend can attest that I hardly put it down once I started reading.  The only problem is a good one to have: at the end of the book I felt like there should have been more to read.  And of course there was.  Mr. Kadish is still alive and hopefully still enjoying fishing.  Perhaps one day he will travel west and I might have the privilege of fishing with him here in Colorado or running into him on a stream back home in the Smokies.  The only problem with meeting author's is that you're never sure if you will end up in their next book, but I guess that wouldn't be a bad thing.

Randy Kadish never did find complete peace, but then, who does.  However, he did work hard towards overcoming the pain in his life and at the end of the book, the tone has changed decidedly.  "Yes, there are eternal, predictable laws of the infinite universe and a renewing force that is so much greater than myself it will never betray me, and it will always dwarf all my resentments and disappointments.  Because this force is so beautiful, is it possible that, as Newton said, only a God could have created it?"(p. 146).  In coming to terms with a Power much greater than himself, Mr. Kadish finally accepts that there is something much larger at work in the world and realizes that he himself can become part of something much greater.

I'm hoping that there is another volume in his story for Mr. Kadish to write, moments of peace, happiness and satisfaction that are as deep and powerful as his previous pain was.  I'm sure that fishing will continue to play a big and important role in the journey of life for Randy Kadish, and I look forward to hearing more of his story in the future.