Coffin’s lyrical account of his eventful initiation into the world of amateur boxing takes readers to southeast Alaska. Unsettled after college, Coffin (A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants) sets out westward from Maine, finally landing in Sitka after a thousand-mile solo sea kayak trip. He tutors at-risk students and, feeling isolated, takes up boxing at the local gym, eventually signing up for a Roughhouse Friday, an event in which anyone can fight for three one-minute rounds. As Coffin measures himself against a motley assortment of local fighters—including a 57-year-old ivory carver and the “Hoonah Hooligan,” a high school legend from a Tlingit village—he confronts his own emotional displacement caused by the childhood divorce of his Thai mother and tough Vietnam vet father, who imparted ideals of manhood through “his versions of Arthurian legends.” In measured, lucid prose, Coffin writes of fight night scenes (“The fight ring stood in the middle of the barroom, over the dance floor, glowing beneath neon tubes of light”) and of the insecurity of angry young men. He finds that he is losing faith in his father’s heroic myths even as he struggles to embody them; nevertheless, it’s his father to whom he continually turns for answers up until the end. This is a powerful, wonderfully written exploration of one’s sense of manhood. (June)
Reviewed on : 03/08/2019 Release date: 06/18/2019 Genre: Nonfiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.