Author of Big Fish Daniel Wallace tries to come to terms with the life and death of his multi-talented longtime friend and brother-in-law, who had been his biggest hero and inspiration, in a poignant, lyrical, and moving memoir.
Clean, clear language, sturdy throughout, is fitting, as it maps a strangely stunning life ... Wallace’s book is illustrated with William’s extraordinary cartoons — detailed maps of rivers and back country, white-water guidance, character satires, first-aid instructions ... What Wallace manages in setting down this cryptic, powerful story is fourfold: He conveys its intense mystery ... He evokes the natures of the key players, their feats and their settings in time and place with sensuous immediacy. He describes how it felt to live inside his own, hapless witnessing, and later mortal reflections...Above all, he imbues this chronicle with tremendous compassion — for William, for everyone.
A eulogy, a cautionary tale, a love letter and a sob of anger ... It revolves around the suicide of a man Wallace loved and held in awe, yet it scrupulously avoids the crevasse of guilt that bedevils — and stalls — many similar stories ... In this memoir, his writing can be repetitive. His descriptions of growing up in Birmingham, Ala., and struggling to become a writer are oddly generic. But by the end of this well-told story we understand the trap Nealy set for himself: He could no longer hide his pain, yet he could not live with it being seen.
Unflinching ... It sounds like a heavy read, but it’s almost deceptively easy ... Some of the writing, however, is almost prosaic ... In the end, Mr. Wallace manages a kind of acceptance. He loves William, the man who taught him about love and art and how to gut a fish. He hates him for the devastation he left behind. He also knows that without William, he would have been a different and lesser man.