All Fishermen Are Liars (Linda Greenlaw)

Reading this book is like eavesdropping on a crew of half-drunk commercial fishermen just back from two months at sea. Nothing more, nothing less. They’re anxious to tell about their recent ruinous adventure or remind you of the time they swam ten hours after losing their boat in a hurricane. Hearing their stories is pure entertainment. You’re never sure how much exaggeration is included, of course, but that doesn’t spoil the tale.

Linda Greenlaw was a college English major who fell in love with the sea working summers on a fishing boat to pay tuition. You might say she decided to keep her summer job indefinitely. Since college, she’s become an experienced captain of swordfishing and lobster boats in Maine. That’s not the normal career path for an English major, to be sure, and there aren’t many women in the fishing industry, but she writes awfully well and sounds like she could get a ship and its crew through the nastiest of gales. In fact, she was out lobstering during the famous Perfect Storm of 1993.

All Fishermen Are Liars [LibraryThing / WorldCat] supposedly grew out of a single night in the Dry Dock Bar in Portland. I say “supposedly”, because the author is a fisherman and, well, read the title again. In each chapter, Greenlaw narrates a true story told by one of her fishing friends. Each scrape, predicament, hassle, mishap, and frankly stupid thing that happens is better than the last. I was laughing throughout, but was also secretly admiring their courage to go back out to sea. The relationship between Greenlaw and her salty mentor, Alden Leeman, has surprising depth, too. He gave her plenty of advice over the years — most of it bad — but there is clearly a deep respect between the two captains despite their different ages, sex, education, and aspirations in life. Both, however, are survivors in an extremely harsh business.

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