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The Boatbuilder

By: Daniel Gumbiner


Imprint: McSweeney's

Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9781944211554

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On Sale: | Pages: 240

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At 28 years old, Eli "Berg" Koenigsberg has never encountered a challenge he couldn't push through, until a head injury leaves him with lingering headaches and a weakness for opiates. Berg moves to a remote Northern California town, seeking space and time to recover, but soon finds himself breaking into homes in search of pills. Addled by addiction and chronic pain, Berg meets Alejandro, a reclusive, master boatbuilder, and begins to see a path forward. Alejandro offers Berg honest labor, but more than this, he offers him a new approach to his suffering, a template for survival amid intense pain. Nurtured by his friendship with Alejandro and aided, too, by the comradeship of many in Talinas, Berg begins to return to himself. Written in gleaming prose, this is a story about resilience, community, and what it takes to win back your soul.
“The Boatbuilder” offers a decidedly gentle, sometimes quietly rewarding window onto the attempted recovery of an American opioid addict.... Despite Berg's tangential entanglement with the narcotics trade and his own struggles with addiction, the book's tensions simmer far more than they boil. Gumbiner is after wisdom, not thrills.... “The Boatbuilder” does often radiate a sense of calm. It also has a few underdeveloped loose ends... Ultimately, Gumbiner succeeds and stumbles relative to how much he trusts the reader to understand what he's after without diagramming it.
—New York Times
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