3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
The Reel Sisters by Michelle Cummings is an American novel about a group of women fly fishers. An unexpected catch downstream leads to a tale of adventure and bonding between five women of different ages. The story revolves around the characters of Sophie, Rose, Veronica, Amanda and Melody. Instead of using traditional chapters, Cummings divides the novel into ten sections. Every section begins with a brief quote about fly fishing which adroitly hints at the general theme of the narrative which follows. A mutual love of fly fishing becomes the foundational platform from which springs a shared journey of discovery, friendship and tragic loss.
What I like most about The Reel Sisters is the author’s style of narration. The tone is relaxed and informal, thus making the novel an easy page-turner. I also like the fact that this book is much more than what it appears to be at first. This concept is captured beautifully in the quote by Henry David Thoreau on the title page of the novel: ‘Many people fish all of their lives not knowing it’s not the fish they are after.’ This quote encapsulates the idea that fly fishing proves to be more than a mere sport. As events unfold in the book, the characters inadvertently learn that it also serves the purpose of providing a kind of release, self-discovery, and acceptance of the circumstances life throws at us.
Even though I did enjoy reading the way in which each character is able to take a certain aspect of fly fishing and then use this aspect to transcend the experience into something meaningful, I rate The Reel Sisters 3 out of 4 stars. The only reason I am not rating this novel a full 4 stars is due to the fact that the author is promoting the practice of fly fishing which I personally feel is a cruel sport. I fail to empathise with Amanda’s character’s ‘sense of pride and astonishment’ after intentionally tricking a wild fish into believing her fly is real. The character of Sophie glorifies the heartless act by pondering on how ‘bringing a fish to rise takes patience, dedication, and determination. Releasing a trout is an offering of thanks and a reminder of the above ingredients necessary for creating a happy life.’ While Sophie's observations may ring true from a human standpoint, it is also a well-known fact that catch-and-release fishing causes such severe physiological stress that the fish often die of shock. I do acknowledge Cummings’ attempt to incorporate this perspective into the novel via the character of Melody who is overwhelmed by sadness at the fish which she unintentionally harms.
The Reel Sisters is a very well-written book and I found almost no errors. There is a moderate amount of mild profanity from one of the characters, but it seems this is crucial to this character’s way of expression.
I would recommend The Reel Sisters to anyone who is looking for an exciting novel of adventure and an excellent portrayal of genuine friendship. I would hesitate to recommend this novel to anyone who is easily upset by the practice of cruelty to animals.
The Reel Sisters
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon