Rough Crossing
by Rosemary McGuire

University of New Mexico Press, 2017. ISBN 978-0-826-35802-8.
Reviewed by Pat Bean
Posted on 04/23/2017

Nonfiction: Memoir

We're not all cut from the same cloth, and not all of us are brave enough to seek out the specific drum beat that echoes through our bodies. Rosemary McGuire is one woman who had the courage to do just that. But it wasn't easy. She had misgivings and doubts all along the way, and it is these wrestlings that are examined in her book, Rough Crossing.

McGuire spent 15 years as a commercial fisherwoman in Alaska. Rough Crossing is the story of the first year, the one in which she learned much; the one in which hardly anything went right; and the one in which love made things emotionally difficult. It was also a year in which she learned that running away to sea is as much about what you are running away from as what you are running toward.

McGuire, whose father was a fisherman, only knew that she was running away from the "trap" of being a woman who stayed home while her man went out to sea.

The life of an Alaska fisherwoman working on shabby boats well past their prime is not pretty, and McGuire didn't gussie it up. Her way with words is powerful—and beautiful.

...I stood knee-deep in fish on a steel boat, far from the illusions of the bar [where she worked before setting out to fish]. It was little more than a momentary dream that sent me back to coastal Alaska but I was glad I'd followed it. Here, I thought, where everyone else is as eccentric as I am, and the restless water sings to us all.

Despite having to fight sexism, and finding that the adventure she had sought was "sadder, dirtier and harder" than she had expected, McGuire found within her chosen career "a wildness" that satisfied her heart.

McGuire doesn't leave out any of the "sadder, dirtier and harder" life in Rough Crossing. Nor does she stint on the rough language that goes along with it—readers be forewarned. But, for me, McGuire's portrayal of an Alaskan fisherwoman's world is accurate and right, and I loved her vivid descriptions of the sea landscape. Her vulnerability in exposing her often conflicting emotions captured my heart.

Rosemary McGuire was born on a homestead in Fairbanks Alaska. She worked as a fisherwoman for 15 years, and has traveled most of Alaska's river systems by canoe. Currently she is a research technician in the Arctic. Her first book, Creatures at the Bottom of the Sea, was published in 2015.

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