A River Runs Through It

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A River Runs Through It

Fly fishing is not what this story is all about, although it might seem so at first. Neither is it about religion, even though the father's first line is: "In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing." Yes, these two things are themes that run through the story and add to its power. But there is so much more. It depicts a place of beauty, history, myth, and mystery, it is a triangle of earth in Montana where the writer grew up. And it captures a space of time in the not-so-distant past with a sensitivity that is both witty and poetic. Robert Redford loved this story and turned it into a handsome movie. Read it yourself or watch the movie, and you will learn something about fly fishing, but you will learn more about the wonders of nature and the strengths and frailties of man. Author Maclean was truly a man of words—well chosen words!

The story traces the relationship between two brothers growing up in an emotionally constricted household headed by a Presbyterian minister. The scholarly Norman follows in the footsteps of his stern, stoic father, going to college, marrying and settling down. His older brother Paul, daring, handsome and athletic, chooses the more glamourous career of newspaper journalist. These two very different brothers are brought together through the years by a mutual love of fly fishing instilled in them by their unyielding father. As Norman watches his brother's seemingly charmed life dissolve under the influences of gambling and alcohol, the art of fly fishing becomes a touching metaphor for the love their father was unable to express in any other way.

The events of this story are simple enough; the narrator, and his younger brother, Paul, have learned from their father the art of fly fishing. The narrator's wife and mother-in-law ask both brothers to take a never do well brother-in-law fishing, as if fishing might somehow cure the brother-in-law of fool-headedness...
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