NOT YOUR RANK-AND-FILE BEDTIME STORY
Failure of Fish is a refreshing newcomer to those relatively few novels qualifying as fine literary works. Addressing the age-old problem of individual moral responsibility, author Michael Sorbonne Robinson, Sr. explores the mind of a fatherless teen boy, who watches helplessly as his childhood community descends into moral ruin, ending up, literally, as the smoking remains of a once-thriving town.
Robinson’s voice is the young Billy Potter, who struggles in his own challenges of dealing with the loss of his father, the apparent duplicities of his mother, the clash of religious piety and scientific learning, and his own uncharted transition from puberty to manhood.
Set in Western British Columbia during the early days of Hitler’s first rise to power and the “war that would end all wars,” Billy faces the uncertainties of a changing world and the realization that even the remoteness of Stella’s Cove, B.C. doesn’t provide protection against the terrors of war. It is the loss of his closest friend that crystalizes his understanding that home is not really so isolated after all.
Written in a markedly older style, Robinson recreates the heartaches, fears, and disintegrating realities of a true coming-of-age hero. One of the books first reviewers had this to say: “I have just finished reading “Failure of Fish” and found it an excellent read. I loved teaching 10th grade English and coming-of-age literature. Billy’s character deserves status along-side Holden Caulfield, Huck Finn, Phineas, and the lads in “Lord of the Flies” in their elusive search for identity and manhood. Were I still teaching, I certainly would have added “Failure of Fish” to my reading list.”
While not at all a suspense thriller, Robinson nails the sometimes shocking behavior of his characters, creating a final summary judgment for those who abdicated their moral responsibility to the will of a group. If you’re tired of bodice-rippers and the same-ol’-same-ol’, you will find this book a refreshing read.
Failure of Fish
Michael Sorbonne Robinson, Sr.
BroncoJockey Books, LLC (2017)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt (03/17)
“Failure of Fish” by Michael Sorbonne Robinson, Sr., is the riveting story of the people and town of Stella’s Cove, a beautiful rural fishing community set against the backdrop of a majestic glacier off the Pacific Coast, in British Columbia. Over the course of time, Stella’s Cove goes through several economic ups and downs, with three major periods of prosperity. In between each economic boom, Stella’s Cove becomes like a ghost town with very few inhabitants remaining.
The town’s religious leader, Rev. Cromwell, plays a large role in the demise of Stella’s Cove. Cromwell is an angry, judgmental man, who seems to delight in the misery of others. Cromwell leads his Methodist congregation into a dark place where, instead of evolving spiritually, the people of the town regress, adopting a mob mentality united in hateful behavior toward people considered outsiders.
Most of “Failure of Fish” is told through the disappointed eyes of Billy Potter. Billy, just a teen when everything falls apart in Stella’s Cove for the last time, struggles with remaining true to his childhood loyalties as he develops his own moral compass. Ultimately, Billy suffers from the loss of close friends as the result of Cromwell’s influence on the town.
“Failure of Fish” is an incredible tale. Beautifully written, I felt like I was actually seeing the story unfold, rather than reading about it. The harshness of dwelling in such an unforgiving place was interesting in itself, yet the fictional inhabitants make it an even more compelling novel, one I truly found hard to put down.
The author does an excellent job of bringing the characters to life. It was eye opening to follow along as the “sheep” allowed themselves to be led down the wrong path, time after time. Knowing that mob mentalities like these have actually occurred historically, and with devastating results, made the story even more realistic. When the characters suffered, I felt like I was right there with them, and at times it was gut wrenching. Due to the depravity described in some of the scenes, I would suggest that this story is best for mature readers.
Overall, I would highly recommend “Failure of Fish” by Michael Sorbonne Robinson, Sr., to people who enjoy historical fiction, especially with heavy psychological undertones. This story will not disappoint.