The Next Chapter

Bill Gaston wrote a memoir about his tumultuous relationship with his father

In the memoir Just Let Me Look At You, Gaston writes that the one place he and his father found common ground was on the water, fishing for salmon.
In Just Let Me Look At You, Bill Gaston writes about his relationship with his father. (Hamish Hamilton/Jen Steele)

Bill Gaston had a stormy relationship with his father. Gaston Sr. was a heavy drinker with a dark side, but the one thing that bound father and son was a love and reverence for fishing. Gaston has written a memoir about this relationship, Just Let Me Look At You.

Just Let Me Look At You is on the shortlist for the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize.

The silence between fathers and sons

"This is an intimate portrait of my father and, more so, it's a portrait of our relationship, which was fraught. It's very much about something that many people will recognize, which is the strange yearning silence between fathers and sons. Not a lot gets said, but there's much emotion in the background."

Returning to old fishing spots

"In one sense, this book came about when I came back to the West Coast after 30 years and I was basically given a boat, an old junker, and I started fishing again. Everything was instantly familiar — the look of a salmon, the smell of it. I was thrown back to many long summers spent with my dad fishing. We learned how to salmon fish together up in a tiny village called Egmont, B.C. In writing the book, I got my junker boat together, glued together with string and gum, and made it up the Salish Sea up to Egmont to fish. In doing so, I remembered all these times I spent with my dad, learning how to fish for salmon."

"One reason the book delves into fishing, some of the more colourful and arcane details of salmon fishing in particular, is that it's the one thing my dad and I shared. We shared a really strange talent for sitting for eight hours, not saying all that much, but completely passionate about what we were doing. Just sitting there, waiting for a bite. Of course, we're sitting on one of the best places on Earth — out on the water, no human structures to be seen. Sitting there with my dad and being perfectly content, but never saying anything about being completely content and recognizing it only after it's long gone."

Bill Gaston's comments have been edited and condensed.