In his prime, Edward Bloom was an extraordinary man. He could outrun anybody. He never missed a day of school. He saved lives and tamed giants. Animals loved him, people loved him, women loved him. He knew more jokes than any man alive. At least that’s what he told his son, William. But now Edward Bloom is dying, and William wants desperately to know the truth about his elusive father—this indefatigable teller of tall tales—before it’s too late. So, using the few facts he knows, William re-creates Edward’s life in a series of legends and myths, through which he begins to understand his father’s great feats, and his great failings. The result is hilarious and wrenching, tender and outrageous.
In Big Fish, Daniel Wallace angles in search of a father and hooks instead a fictional debut as winning as any this year. From his son's standpoint, Edward Bloom leaves much to be desired. He was never around when William was growing up; he eludes serious questions with a string of tall tales and jokes. This is subject matter as old as the hills, but Wallace's take is nothing if not original. Desperate to know his father before he dies, William recreates his father's life as the stuff of legend itself. In chapters titled "In Which He Speaks to Animals," "How He Tamed the Giant," "His Immortality," and the like, Edward Bloom walks miles through a blizzard, charms the socks off a giant, even runs so fast that "he could arrive in a place before setting out to get there." In between these heroic episodes, Bloom dies not once but four times, working subtle variations on a single scene in which he counters his son's questions with stories--some of which are actually very witty, indeed. After all, he admits, "...if I shared my doubts with you, about God and love and life and death, that's all you'd have: a bunch of doubts. But now, see, you've got all these great jokes." The structure is a clever conceit, and the end product is both funny and wise. At the heart of both legends and death scenes live the same age-old questions: Who are you? What matters to you? Was I a good father? Was I a good son? In mapping the territory where myth meets everyday life, Wallace plunges straight through to fatherhood's archaic and mysterious heart. --Mary Park