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'Guide's Story' has some great anecdotes about the Brule

When a person has passion for his work, that passion translates to other people. Think of KBJR weatherman George Kessler, for example. Over a lifetime, such people typically end up gaining experiences that weave into a personal story, and those p...

When a person has passion for his work, that passion translates to other people. Think of KBJR weatherman George Kessler, for example.
Over a lifetime, such people typically end up gaining experiences that weave into a personal story, and those personal stories, infused with zeal, often make for compelling reading.
Such a person is Lawrence Berube. Such a personal story is his "The Brule River: A Guide's Story," recently published for Berube by Savage Press in Superior. (Let's get the disclaimer out of the way, while we're at it: as a vegan, I do not condone fishing.)
"A Guide's Story" is Berube's memoir of more than five decades as a Brule River fishing guide, and it's filled with the life experience of an expert fisherman, an amateur ecologist and a walking regional historical landmark.
"A Guide's Story" is loosely organized into chapters. Berube briefly touches on his own early history, then the history of the Brule, before getting too deeply into his guiding experience.
From there he talks about the conditions along the river, the friends he has made along the way (including doctors, lawyers and "other interesting people"), the noon lunch of fish, the fish of Brule River, the natural beauty of the region and some thoughts on ecology.
The appeal is broad in the region. Those interested in fishing and fish stories will find plenty to entertain themselves, and they will probably find common ground with Berube's ecological views, which tend to focus on protecting fish habitat.
Residents of the Brule area will also find a treasure -- some of the names and stories in this book will be of interest to local historians, present and future.
But best of all are the anecdotes, the real "heat" in the book. As you'd expect, Berube has had some remarkable experiences on the river in 50-plus years of guiding, from helping clients land record trout to watching eagles attack osprey in midair to steal the fish from their claws. Often, these anecdotes are rattled off shotgun fashion in the space of a few pages.
That highlights one of the tradeoffs of the loose organization. For my taste, it's a little too loose. Press information from Savage Press compares the book to a "favorite uncle that is rambling on about the love of his life," and that's about right.
I like a rambling style, but if taken too far, there's a cost to the reader. In this case, one cost is redundancy. There are actually about three paragraphs repeated verbatim near the beginning and end.
But a bigger cost is missed opportunity. Because the book is so stream-of-consciousness at times, that shotgun approach to the really fun stories cheats Berube of the chance to tell his tales in the depth they deserve. The book only runs 80 pages, so he had space. I think better organization would have given Berube a better platform to take his time on some of the more entertaining of his experiences.
Perhaps he will find other forums to do so.
(Incidentally, Savage has also published "Blueberry Summers" for Berube as a companion book, and if I might be so bold .... Another companion book -- "Brule River Tales" or some such -- that tells a few select tales in more detail, might make interesting reading.)
This criticism should not be overstated: the disorganization does not make this a bad book. In fact, "A Guide's Story" is an easy, pleasant read. Editing, which has been a problem with some previous Savage Press books, is better here, although there are still inconsistencies in style and spelling (even when it comes to the author's name, oddly enough -- late in the book, it's spelled "Laurence" while elsewhere it's Lawrence; hope I picked right).
Ditto for design. While I question the color of the type -- a dark brown on off-white paper makes for slightly difficult reading -- the typography is sound and the interior design nicely intuitive.
And despite the disorganized feel, Berube's writing is basically solid. He's not in the class of a Bob Cary -- one of those lucky people who seem to have dual passions for writing and the outdoors -- but the book is highly readable, and Berube's spare style is a model of clarity, one of writing's prime virtues.
So "A Guide's Story" won't have the same universal appeal as some Northland outdoors writers enjoy, but it will make up for it in strong regional and niche appeal. In this age of chain stores and mass communication, I'm a big fan of niche, and I'm glad these stories are being printed.
Kyle Eller is the Budgeteer book reviewer. Submit your books for review to him in care of the Budgeteer News, 222 West Superior Street, Duluth, Minn. 55802. To talk books, call him at (218) 723-1207 or send e-mail to kyle.eller@duluth.com .

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