The River Why is a raucous Rabelaisian romp through a parable that is ostensibly about fishing but like all parables is about so much more than its topic.  Gus Orviston is born to a couple as dedicated to fishing as any devotees to a religion and practicing it with similar devotion he finds in it sanctuary and sustenance.  But when he is able to fulfill his dream to retreat alone to a wilderness cabin beside a river and make his days and nights all about fishing and nothing but fishing, he soon discovers a hollowness at the heart of his world and of himself.

When he notices the damage inflicted on the river by loggers and fishermen he begins to wonder about the very viability of humanity and whether by perusing his own passion he is unwittingly contributing to its extinction.  When his self-imposed isolation along with mono-focus on fishing leads to restlessness, insomnia, hallucinations and an inability to converse with other humans, he begins to wonder why he isn't happy now that he has achieved what he'd always dreamed would be the epitome of happiness.

Wondering, he learns is the beginning of wisdom and 'Why?' is the wisest question of all.

Duncan tells a rollicking tale full of fsurprise and humor and of puns and pranks and wordplay that layer meaning and sets it shimmering like scales on a fish caught in the sun--and which does what the best of such tales do, teaches as it entertains and leaves us transformed.

The 20th anniversary edition includes an Essay by Duncan entitled 'Heart Work' that muses on the life of writing and activism on behalf of his beloved salmon and the rivers that are their home.


"Reading The River Why not only enriches the reader's understanding of fishing, environmental issues and enriches the reader's understanding of him/herself. A truly great piece of literature by a gifted author."      Steven Winchester   

"This is one of my all-time favourite books. It is about fishing, philosophy and finding love. "   hannahfishead  

"Definitely one of my favorite reads of the decade. Rich characters, beautiful prose, laugh out loud funny."    Janice Wagner 

"A veritable epic....Moving, rhapsodic in its intensity." Publishers Weekly   

"In the company of Catch-22 and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." The Houston Post.An expansively inventive spiritual-quest tale with a fisherman metaphor--popping, erratically but engagingly, from Swiftian drolleries to twanging slapstick swings to Solemn Moments of Discovery. . . to stodgily whimsical romance."   Editorial Review - Kirkus Reviews Copyright (c) VNU Business Media, Inc

"Uncle Zeke's colorful rendition of Gus's conception on the banks of the Deschutes River is itself worth the price of purchase." Editorial Review