David Mallory’s collection of stories chronicling his childhood and experiences with his father is as simple and straightforward as the title implies. The book also manages to capture the sense of warmth and uncomplicated affection conveyed by Doreen Malnati’s earth-toned cover art, resulting in a son’s heartfelt tribute to the man who taught him all he knew.
Dad and I is essentially a narrative detailing fishing and hunting expeditions of a father and son. Mallory begins his stories in 1947 when, at the age of five, he is first introduced to fishing with Dad. At that young age, he is rather more impressed by the stop on the way home for ice cream than with the fishing, but he soon begins to enjoy it as much as his father does. Thus begins a mutual hobby that spans decades and cements their relationship in common appreciation.
The book is organized into thirty-nine short chapters, each beginning with an often charming and always appropriate quote about fishing or hunting. Mallory also includes a couple of “subchapters” detailing the total number of fish he and his father caught over certain time periods, broken down into types of fish. The apparent commitment to record-keeping is impressive, as is the number and variety of fish the men caught over the years.
Mallory’s style is unembellished, with a tendency to cite facts while forgoing excess emotion. Although the sense of affection and enjoyment for the sport comes through, it is done with no real dialogue or dramatic tension. He simply tells the stories and ends most chapters with a few sentences depicting how each particular outing ended. “We fried up the brook trout for our supper, froze the big rainbow for later and went to bed. Another successful, happy day spent with Dad.”
Mallory does attempt to bring some more personal moments into the stories, including mention of marriages, friends, and other family members. A chapter entitled “50th Anniversary” may prove a welcome departure for some readers, providing a bit more insight into the author and his family as they celebrate his parents’ wedding anniversary with friends. And despite the lack of interaction through dialogue, the bond between Mallory and his father is conveyed through their sheer commitment to sharing moments together. This camaraderie is further clarified near the end of the book when Mallory purchases a new boat with his father, further proving the strong bond between the two men; it’s clear to the reader that the notion of buying a boat without his father’s involvement would never have occurred to him.
Ultimately, Dad and I is a straightforward homage to Mallory’s father, written in the language both understood intimately.While the audience for a book consisting primarily of detailed accounts of hunting and fishing may be limited—and there is a distinct lack of tension and emotional interaction—any true fishing enthusiast who had the opportunity to learn the sport in the same way is sure to appreciate the nostalgic tribute.