For readers of Smith Henderson’s Fourth of July Creek and David Vann’s Legend of a Suicide, C. B. Bernard’s debut novel shows a father and a daughter fighting toward hope through a traumatic past.
In the town of Disappointment, Oregon, washed-up boxer Lewis Yaw makes ends meet as a fishing guide. He’s lived a life of violence, but doesn’t understand real strength until he meets Janey, who can see good in even the most damaged things—including him. When she gives birth to their daughter, Grayling, Lewis worries that he’ll mess her up as badly as his father did him. But he also sees a chance to right the wrongs of the past.
By high school, Gray has become his apprentice guide, his sparring partner, and his pride and joy. Life in their small town is nothing short of challenging—there’s a marauding bear roaming the streets, a rival guide trying to kill Lewis, and a poacher littering deer carcasses along the river—but he is closer to happiness than he ever thought possible. When tragedy strikes, Lewis can’t break free of his past, leaving Gray to fight to save the only thing she has left: her family.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Haunting and heartbreaking but still laced with hope, this powerful story shows how trauma is passed through generations. Former boxer Lewis Yaw tries to move past his troubled youth by moving across the country and settling down with his wife, Janey, and daughter, Gray, in the dreary (and aptly named) town of Disappointment, Oregon. But the darkness at his heels puts a strain on his relationship with Gray over the years, especially after a camping trip ends in unexpected tragedy. The way the relationship between father and daughter evolves throughout this compelling read reminds us how hard it can be to break patterns of trauma and hurt. Debut novelist C. B. Bernard adds a beautiful depth to Disappointment and its inhabitants, balancing the town’s somber notes with quirky, slice-of-life escapades that bring plenty of levity. Small Animals Caught in Traps is a poignant novel about the love that inspires us to fight our hardest battles—with ourselves.