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Sons, Fathers, and Rivers

Robin Carey

5 1/2 × 8 1/2 inches. 168 pages.

2006. ISBN 978-0-87071-090-2. Paperback, $18.95.

As a river guide on the Klamath River in northern California, Robin Carey fantasized about attempting "an entire whitewater river in upstream mode." Years later, Carey and his son Dev, both experienced river runners, set out to kayak up the wild Klamath from its mouth at the Pacific Ocean. A test of the limits of physical endurance, the river ascent also forces Carey to work out tensions with his grown son and come to terms with a painful past haunted by a legacy of destructive family relationships.

Upstream is at once a compelling chronicle of the river journey and a moving portrayal of turbulent father-son relationships. Carey’s paternal grandfather, Thomas, preached a hellfire gospel in the Oklahoma Territories, carrying his message to cowboys, sodbusters, whiskey peddlers, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Osage. In his church, he was honored. In his home, he was not — neither his son nor his wife escaped his wrath or his razor strap. The son, George, carried mental scars forward into his own marriage, where they affected the author’s childhood.

During days of hard paddling, Carey comes to admit the quick anger and violent mood swings he shares with his father and grandfather, and to acknowledge the crippling power of that legacy. His battle against the current, and his determination to reconcile with the living and the dead men of his life, shape this powerful memoir.

Member of AAUP