Book Reviews by Mary Guss
December 09, 2006
Ketchikan, Alaska - Lynn Schooler is a wilderness guide and 35-year resident of Juneau. On his boat the Wilderness Swift he takes people out to observe and photograph Alaska from Misty Fjords to Prince William Sound. He also writes. Over the past five years he has written two nonfiction books that deal with watery topics. The stories are set over a hundred years apart and have vastly different subjects and protagonists. But each provides the reader with an engrossing tale.
The earlier of the two books is The Blue Bear. It is the story of Schooler and his friend photographer and writer Michio Hoshino traveling together in search of the elusive blue bear. That underlying theme holds the book together. There is much that is woven around that story, adding depth and richness. The friendship between the two men grows with their travels together and the reader gets to know each of them as they get to know each other.
The Blue Bear is also a celebration
of the natural treasures to be seen from the Wilderness Swift
-- whether it's humpback whales bubble-feeding, glaciers calving
or salmon running. And it's a treatise on bears -- you will
definitely learn a multitude of bear facts. But all is not sweetness
and light. There are dark places in the story and in the geography,
and the ending is not a happy one. By then you will have been
wrapped up in the
Schooler's second and more recent book is The Last Shot. It is set at the end of the American Civil War, and the last shot referred to in the title is actually the last shot of that conflict. That shot is fired in the waters near Little Diomede Island months after Robert E. Lee has surrendered to General Grant. Whaling ships from northern states were destroyed in substantial numbers by the captain of the Shenandoah under orders from the Confederacy, and this is that story.
The book provides a detailed history lesson from an obscure chapter in America's past. But its characters do not grab the reader and make them care as effectively as those in The Blue Bear -- not surprising since Schooler does not know them personally. While interesting, Last Shot lacks the power to move that Schooler's earlier book possesses. What is ultimately most interesting is the author and his choice to deal with two such disparate subjects.
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