Dramatic, Wild, and Wet

Living near the coast of Maine and worshiping in a small fishing village, I’ve spent some idyllic moments on the deck of a friend’s lobster boat and marveled at the treasures (the beautiful and the ugly) that come tumbling out of a lobster trap.  I’ve skirted the perimeter of a secluded island with four little boys, admired its tumbled stones,  listened to its pounding surf, and wondered at its stalwart gale-beaten evergreens.  And always, always . . . in the back of my mind was the small voice of worry:  “We’re 20 miles from the mainland.  What if something goes wrong?  What if someone gets hurt?”

Leslie Leyland Fields is no visitor or tourist to maritime culture.  The frigid coast of Alaska has been her home and her workplace for 38 years, and she has lived through many of the what-ifs that teased the fringes of my imagination on my island visits.  In Crossing the Waters, her tenth book, she has woven with elegance the story of her life as an Alaskan commercial fishing woman alongside meditations on the wet and wild New Testament tales of wind-whipped waves and a sleeping savior, of bulging nets and faithless followers.  Leslie tightens the narrative weave with a third strand:  accounts of her journey to Israel, home of the Biblical fishing grounds where the Son of God cast His net wide and found Himself often in the company of a band of fishermen.

Hiking in the autumn heat along the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River with Leslie, I was invited to ponder with her the meaning of baptism, the significance of leaving our nets behind to follow Jesus, and the faith that receives a fish from the hand of Jesus without secretly wondering whether it might be a snake.

From the “gathering of the waters” at the Red Sea, through the washing and purifying that became part of their worship, and then into the New Testament splashing of baptized and believing fishermen, the People of the Book have also been a people who have come through the water; and although Jesus’ disciples were called away from the water for the three years of His public ministry, Leslie and her family have lived the fierce call to remain on the water.

Memoir runs seamlessly from past to present, from Alaska to Israel, and glorious truth landed like spray on the bow of my boat:

The following life can be a leaving behind of what is dear, but it may also be a staying put while others leave.  Those of us whose nests are emptying out before our incredulous eyes know the bittersweet of the proud goodbye and the gritty faithfulness of “I will follow Christ right here where I’ve been put.”

New Testament images of fishermen blithely walking away from their nets, and Peter scrabbling over the side of a boat onto a stormy sea jump clean off the flannel board and into real life with the reality that no fisherman in his right mind would abandon his boat — or his nets — without very good reason.  Since Leslie has had the experience of standing aghast in a boat full of salmon (calculating extra mortgage payments and tuition money as she surveyed the bumper crop) she takes an educated guess at Jesus’ motives for calling Peter, James, and John away from their nets to fish for souls after His miraculous provision of the catch of their lives:

“Enjoy it.  Count the fish.  Now, come.  I have something greater for you.”

The abundance of the following life comes in unexpected ways — and maybe when we least expect it.

The Fields fish and the Morins mow, so it was helpful to read about another family that is working its way through the tensions of life in a family business and that knows the ache of a work-related argument or the constant need for productivity that presses hard against the desire to be a sympathetic mum.  Leslie’s metaphor of mending nets by pulling shredded fibers back together into something durable and reliable is an apt (and poignant) picture of the work of forgiveness that preserves family unity.

Visiting Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, Leslie longed to see a real storm as a reminder of the “peace be still” that banished the gale, but that also brought tangible fear right into the boat instead.
Go ahead.
Join the wide-eyed disciples in asking the question:  What kind of Savior is this?  Then read the conclusion that comes from the experience of crossing the waters with Jesus:   that He is a Savior who allows the storm to come with all its howling winds, but then who sits beside us in our boat, calling us to do our part to fill the hungry in this world full of danger and fear.


This book was provided by NavPress in alliance with Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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49 thoughts on “Dramatic, Wild, and Wet”

  1. Such beautiful word pictures as always. I love the connection you feel to Leslie’s words in your own experience in Maine. You always leave me with the desire to read every book you review. Oh if only I had that kind of time. Blessings my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful, my friend! You have taken me back into the waters that I so much enjoyed when I read this, capturing Leslie’s images and the threads she sews together (much as the nets) with the skill of her words. Have been looking forward to this review and it delighted me as I expected it would. Thanks for guiding me back into the powerful reflections in Crossing the Waters! Blessings on your day!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Surviving the Island of Grace — it’s got the great memoir-ish aspect and — like some of the other books we’ve read “together separately” it’s a book that dares to look at life on this fallen planet and admit that things aren’t what we’d like to see. She gives more info about her own background in Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers.


  3. What a beautiful picture you weaved through this post Michele. I love how you said that you were “invited to ponder.” The fact that this author’s words were powerful enough to bring you right into the story speaks volumes. Another book to add to my growing list!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting correlations between the author’s family and yours, Michele. I love when a book hits home with us. This sounds like a profitable exercise: “Join the wide-eyed disciples in asking the question: What kind of Savior is this?”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I love how you take us back and it’s so like we are there in the book Michele. As a mom who has a son who loves to fish I could associate with it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey all you wonderful readers! First, Michele is a terrific writer! This is a beautifully written review. I am truly honored! And I want to let you know about this offer. If any church or reading group decides to use my book, I offer aSkype visit! (I just did one with a group in Wisconsin a few days ago.) It’s fun for me to meet readers and then to answer questions or discuss anything from the book together. Thanks and Blessings, Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, Eastport! That’s officially “Down East.” I’m in the midcoast region, inland from Rockland and Thomaston, or, looking at it from the other direction, due east from Augusta. Is Naphtali doing this as part of her college work? What a great gift it must be to that part of the state to have something going on with the arts.


      1. No, she’s out of graduate school. (She got an MFA in theater directing from V.Tech.) She’s running the theatre there. There’s a group of 8 islands called “The Island Institute” that really focuses on the arts. So the island is a fishing and arts community, just like Kodiak!


      2. I didn’t realize the Island Institute was active that far north. You must be happy for her, but miss her too. Alaska and Maine are so far apart. (I have a sister near Fairbanks.)


  7. What a post Michele! You’re such a beautiful writer. I felt like I was on a boat at sea with you as I read. The book sounds like a very interesting look at Jesus. ~Sherry
    Stopping by from the #HeartEncouragment Linkup

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve traveled far enough out to sea to lose sight of land and rode up and the waves on the way back home. But it was all for pleasure. To see from the perspective of the fisherman leaving behind full nets to follow the fullness of Christ sounds exciting. And then connecting those stories to my own life even better.
    Thank you, Michele, for sharing. : )


  9. Michele, I have always wanted to visit Maine for fresh lobster. All the restaurants around here over cook it and every time I try it I’m disappointed. Maybe one day! Thanks for this review, I’m adding the book to my list. Thanks for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.


  10. Michele, you really have a way with words! I felt drawn right in while I was reading. I love the way you weave things together with your own life. Her book sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing with us!

    Blessings to you, dear Michele. I’m your neighbor at #GiveMeGrace this week. 🙂


  11. Loved this, Michele!

    I did not realize you lived in Maine. Way back when, in the days when I aspired to follow in the painterly footsteps of Frederick Church, I admired (and still do) his paintings of Mount Desert Island. I’ve never been there, and never will visit…but knowing that you know the Maine coast somehow makes this seem closer.


    1. I googled Church – amazing work! I’ve been to Acadia with the family and tried to capture sunset from the top of the mountain with my camera. Thank you for this heads up — he will be on my radar from now on!


  12. Michele – you always have the best book reviews and always leave me wanting to buy more and more books to add to the piles and piles already on my nightstand, desk, end table, etc. Thank you so much for always sharing from your heart and blending your words with the authors to make for a fabulous review. I found you today at #LMM


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