The Fisherman’s Son

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE FISHERMAN’S SON is a heart wrenching tale of love and honor set against the unrelenting sea. The novel opens with Neil Kruger adrift in a lifeboat. The son of a fisherman, Neil knows the sea. Using a chilling series of flashbacks, interspersed with his present struggles to survive, author Michael Koepf paints a realistic, yet emotional picture of life in Half Moon Bay, California.

Readers learn about Neil’s parents: Emily, a cannery worker who hates the sea for what it has taken from her. Ernie, the crusty fisherman, and Neil’s brothers Paul and Philip. The Kruger family disputes are mirrored in the town conflicts. Ernie is a well-seasoned veteran of the sea. He is a tough task master, a man of honor, who shows his affection through his work, not his words. Yet it is Ernie who gently calls his young son “honey,” calming his fears on the rough sea. Emily enjoys her job at the cannery. Paul supports his mother’s views. The conflicts between businessmen and fishermen in Half Moon Bay evolve into a metaphor for life.

As the story progresses, Koepf offers seminal glimpses of Neil’s life and his relationships with the men of the sea. Although he struggles against fate, he is one of them. Readers learn that a drug deal gone bad was the cause of Neil’s predicament. When he learns the dealers’ plans include murder, the fisherman’s son rises to the occasion and attempts to set things right. In his efforts to save others, Neil becomes the embodiment of his father’s ideals. In his final days, adrift at sea, Neil recalls the life lessons Ernie and the other fishermen taught him. The final chapters are almost mystical as Neil reaches an epiphany, finding personal peace. Life, death, and the sea become one in an eternal cycle.