As Father's Day gifts go, The Poacher's Son has always seemed both perfect to me, and a little perverse. The story is entirely about fatherhood, both biological and spiritual. It concerns itself with a part of the world (the Maine North Woods) that holds deep meaning for many generations of fathers and sons. And, not least, there's a lot of hunting and fishing it.
On the other hand, it's easy to imagine a dad receiving the book, encountering the character of Jack Bowditch, and wondering what exactly their son or daughter might be trying to communicate.
Fortunately for me, others seem to be less conflicted about the rightness of my novel as a Father's Day gift. Take Vick Mickunas, who writes in today's Dayton Daily News:
Here is a book for Father’s Day. Paul Doiron’s debut novel, The Poacher’s Son, is a story of a complicated relationship between a father and his son. Jack Bowditch is the father and the poacher in the title. The elder Bowditch has spent a lifetime hunting and trapping in the North Woods of Maine.
Jack served a couple of tours of duty in Vietnam. When he returns, something about him has changed. His neighbors in the remote logging town “said they no longer recognized him as the same sweet and shy Jack Bowditch he’d once been.”
Jack claimed “he was a poacher out of necessity; he took game whenever and wherever the opportunity presented itself because he was too proud to accept food stamps.” Maine’s game wardens suspect that he is poaching but he skillfully evades their efforts to apprehend him.
In an interview, the author explained the tense personal dynamic which developed between a man he describes as a “violent, womanizing poacher” and his son, Mike: “Mike reacts to his father, who’s this lawless guy, by doing the opposite — he becomes a law enforcement officer, a Maine game warden, as a way to make up for his father’s sins, to the extent that he can.”
Doiron continues: “At the same time, he craves his father’s respect, and even affection, because they are estranged. He knows what his father is, he thinks, which is a violent, abusive sort of reckless person. But he doesn’t think his father is capable of some of the brutal crimes that he ends up being accused of in The Poacher’s Son. ”
All father-son relationships are complicated in my experience. Thankfully, few of them resemble Mike and Jack's.