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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Swimming Upstream is a literary fiction novel written by Jacob Anderson-Minshall. Flint immediately wished he could go back in time and not overhear the conversation his dad was having with the bland-looking, middle-aged man who had rung the doorbell of their Marin County home. Prior to this, Flint’s biggest issue was with Ki’s decision to sell their Castro house and move up here to Marin County. Flint missed the edginess, the energy that was San Francisco. He identified as a city boy. And while he could get how Ki’s dedication to the environment, and his dad’s work and life revolved around the earth and uncovering the streams and waterways that had been relegated to hidden tunnels underground, he had begun considering making a move on his own back to the city. He was seventeen now, and could make his own way. Those somewhat idle thoughts, however, soon fled into the far recesses of his mind in the shock that he felt at realizing everything that Ki had told him was false, that a life he thought was finally safe and secure was illusory.
Jacob Anderson-Minshall’s literary fiction novel, Swimming Upstream, is a huge, multifaceted tale that spans generations and cultures; one that kept me enthralled and unwilling to put down throughout what was a remarkable and enjoyable experience. Along the way, I made the acquaintance of two unforgettable characters, Flint and his dad, Ki. I experienced through Ki’s life the AIDs crisis during the 1980s, and spent almost idyllic years with Ki in the rugged, wild lands of Idaho. Anderson-Minshall’s treatment of the First Nations and their intricate relationship with the Salmon people is stunning and eloquent, and Ki’s story about the coyote is powerful and moving. The Iraq and Vietnam conflicts are also covered in this most decidedly different, and better, family saga, as the spectre of PTSD and its continuing effect on veterans and their families is explored in the struggles Charlie and Brooke experience after their tours in those countries. Swimming Upstream is a grand and stirring look at culture, gender and the human condition. It’s also a magnificent work of nature and environmental fiction, and it’s most highly recommended.