Michele Longo Eder's memoir, written in journal form, covers the span of one year in her multi-faceted life. The year, 2001, begins in a somewhat ordinary way, as ordinary a way as possible for this fisherman's wife, mother, lawyer, political activist and more. Regrettably it ends so very sadly with the loss of one of her sons at sea. While this event is the climax of Eder's journal and understandably comprises numerous entries, what leads up to it is in itself fascinating.
Eder's description of the commercial fishing industry, its perils and its joys is enlightening. She and her family live on the Oregon coast where fishing for sablefish and crab can at times mean feast or famine. She writes about various aspects of the industry including how quotas are imposed and prices set, the threat of strikes and more. The impact on fishermen/women and their families is direct and can be devastating—all that before they set foot on their boats. Her descriptions of life at sea, the unpredictability of the weather and the ocean are hard-hitting and eye-opening. This is especially true in the latter part of her journal where she talks of the loss of her son Ben and the massive efforts to locate him and his comrades. We also are exposed to the wonderful community of fishing families, including Coast Guard personnel, who band together in this trying time. Unfortunately it is something that these people have experienced before and know without a doubt that it will visit them again.
I found this book difficult to put down. Like most people, I suppose, I'd never given much thought to the commercial fishing industry and the very high risks attached to it. It was difficult to read of Ben's loss but it did not overwhelm the overall story that Michele Longo Eder is telling here. What she did was make me pay attention. This is a compelling and enlightening read.
Michele Longo Eder has practiced law in Oregon for 30 years and has represented commercial fishermen and their associations. She and her husband, who has been an owner-operator of commercial fishing vessels, live in Newport. Michele serves on the Board of Directors of the North Pacific Research Board and is a Commissioner with the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, a Presidential appointment. Visit her website.
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