Chad has to regroup after a freak accident ruins his boat and injures his wife. He eventually finds his way to the shabby Rock Creek Marina, in Portland, Oregon, and settles in with the residents there. Personalities clash, insults sting, and Chad's work is thankless. Yet, there is some thread of fellow feeling among the residents, and when things being to fall apart, everyone rallies. Exploring themes of family, home, hope, and belonging, and illustrating the ways in which we are connected, Friesen's wonderful and heartfelt story is a small, brilliant gem. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
One windy night on the Willamette River, a young man with romantic notions of a sailing life crashes his boat into a railroad bridge, nearly killing his wife. Divorced, ashamed, and haunted by the tragedy, Chad tries to leave the river and its memories behind, only to be drawn back years later. At a ramshackle marina north of Portland, he lives and works among a motley assortment of houseboat dwellers and liveaboards, each with their own story and their own reasons to distrust or embrace a newcomer who can’t quite commit to being one of them.
There’s Dory and Marge, one a dreamer, the other a purveyor of hot dogs and gossip, necessary glue for a community literally tied together in the current; there’s Barry, the Catholic priest who has lost his faith; Bernice and Bill, a perfect couple on the verge of fracturing; and there’s Jack, who has lived on the river his entire life — before speedboats, before electricity, and before shotguns went out of style as a way of settling disputes.
As the seasons bring changes to the river, Chad and this makeshift community change each other in unexpected ways, learning to love, to trust, and to heal.
"A Fine New Northwest Book. This is a satisfying, believable book well worth reading. Each section of At the Waterline pulled me into the next, and each character made me want to know more about the others. As the book goes on, more and more stories come together, stories that work at two levels. Some are open, public, everyday stories (how we present ourselves). Others are far more private, below the waterline." Marjorie Burns
"One of those books that hooks you on the first page but then slows down to reel you in. As… events unfurl in the lives of an eccentric collection of river dwellers, Friesen’s novel gradually reveals a great truth: that every life — every life — hides remarkable drama and overpowering tragedy." Molly Gloss, author of The Jump-Off Creek and The Hearts of Horses
About the Author
Author Brian Friesen lived aboard a 29-foot Ericson called Star Fox and a 33-and-a-half-foot Hunter called The Arctic Loon alternately for three years. His time spent working in various marinas along the Columbia River immersed him in the gritty reality of river-community life. Brian was the recipient of the James Patrick Folinsbee Award for creative writing at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, where he received his Master of Arts degree in English. He is an active member of the Portland literary scene, and his stories and essays have appeared in R.K.V.R.Y. Literary Journal, The Music Liberation Project, The Portland Spectator, and A Write Around Portland Anthology. He works for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.