Book Club: ‘Casting into the Light’ proves a fascinating summer read for fishermen … and -women
Editor’s note: This monthly column by the Vail Daily’s entertainment editor will discuss books she’s reading.
I’ll admit… fishing is not an outdoors sport you’d likely find me doing. I’m (barely) pescatarian. When swimming as a kid, especially in Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire, I’d squirm and jump out of the water if I felt anything fish-like brush up against my ankles. Fish, in my personal opinion, are smelly and weird and best when they’re just animated characters in movies like “The Little Mermaid” and “Finding Nemo.” But “Casting into the Light” is a fun read, for anglers and non-anglers alike.
Janet Messineo’s memoir/auto-biography goes through her personal history as one of the only women shore fishermen (fisherwomen?) on Martha’s Vineyard. Gaining her angling chops in the 1970s and ’80s, Messineo eventually went on to become a former President of the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association. She’s written about fishing for many publications and still lives on the Vineyard today with her husband.
What drew me into “Casting in the Light” was the setting. I grew up outside Boston, so I thought reading a book about Martha’s Vineyard after moving to Vail just months ago – and feeling just a little homesick for New England beaches – would be a weirdly comforting thing.
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Messineo grew up in working-class Boston suburbs and was a full-fledged hippie living in Haight-Ashbury and on a farm with her ex-husband before finding her passion: fishing. That’s what kept me reading after getting over the Massachusetts excitement. Her life was interesting and fascinating even before becoming one of the Vineyard’s first women fishermen (that still sounds wrong to me, but Messineo calls herself a fisherman).
The other thing that kept me reading was the subtle feminism inherent in writing about being a woman in a male-dominated space. I’m sure most women have found themselves in a similar situation — heck, women in the valley probably see it every day with the ratio of men to women just living here. I mean, at least personally, I feel like I see how men and women experience social situations differently just by living here. Reading her account, and how she handled both implied and outright sexism, was nice to see and witness with her.
However, “Casting into the Light” is far from feminist literature. Even those who aren’t necessarily interested and dying to read about gender equality can take away something meaningful from the book. There are plenty of action-packed moments of Messineo wrangling in 50-pound bass to keep everyone happy.
One criticism I do have of the novel is that it does skim over some of the more difficult personal moments Messineo has faced in her life. Her home life while growing up didn’t seem to be exactly smooth-sailing, but she doesn’t go into much detail about why. Additionally, one of her closest friends and greatest mentors lost a long battle with mental illness, but most of the context provided doesn’t invite the reader in to experience how deeply affected Messineo was by the situation. She tells instead of shows in these situations.
I definitely don’t blame her for choosing to keep certain amounts of personal information private, but the story definitely could have been stronger with some darker moments to develop that emotional connection between reader and author that many writers hope to achieve with their work.
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