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- Published on Amazon.com
Suino nails his colours to the mast early in the book, contrasting the "materialistic, childish, Twenty-First Century American lifestyle" and its "digitally-fixated world", with a time when reputations and respect were built over years, rather than being measured by the size of houses, numbers of cars, width of TV screens and glamour of summer homes and holidays. Thomas Russell Aldridge, aged 67 represents the former; Bob Santoni a brash and boisterous salesman in his early 30s represents the latter; the drinking game, more a drinking contest held sporadically over months in different drinking establishments, becomes a metaphor for different approaches to life and family and friends.
Aldridge, "supported a serious approach to certain activities in life, and among these were drinking, fishing and shooting pool"; all three figure importantly in the novel as activities that define Aldridge and which, even the drinking, require patience and skill and abilities developed over time. The novel unfolds in the smaller towns, lakes, taverns and bars, and roads of Michigan where life is less frantic and the measure of a man is taken by who he is and how he keeps, or doesn't keep, his own counsel, not by what he does or what he owns.
The story is told in the first person by a young, aspiring writer who knows Aldridge and shares his love for, in particular, fishing; the novel depicts the pleasures to be had in the quiet and the contest and the intelligence of fishing. Our narrator follows and writes-up the story of the contest for a series of articles for newspapers. His respect and caring for the `old man' grows as he realizes that Aldridge's inability to adjust to the modern world is not a failure, but a natural outgrowth of his expectations of life and individual responsibilities.
In the end, Aldridge dies as he lived: on his own terms and his own timing, with the sense of "honor" that Suino evokes. This is a novel that explores principles that define and measure `success' and `profile' against standards that now seem old-fashioned in, "a nation of people who will sacrifice every dignity to win fame or a few dollars." Principles such as quiet pride in work and craftmanship, fair dealing with strangers, loyalty to friends and partners, respect for others, doing the best that one can in whatever endeavour, respect for the fauna and flora of nature, facing the challenges of life without complaint or self-pity, the simple pleasures of shared experiences and real comradeship, a slower, less outwardly-focused approach to life---principles that retain meaning because they will always define the individual under the distracting tinsel and glitter of modern life.