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Shane Sunn
Moon and Sunn
Shane Sunn, author
Shane Sunn grew up in Ackerman, MS, in the shadow of Moon--his legendary, often absent, and always fishing father. With literary acuity that sometimes reads more like a novel than a memoir, the author recounts exhilarating stories of fishing beside Moon in snake-infested Mississippi backwaters along with painful accounts of what endured and internalized when Moon left home yet again in pursuit of the world record Alaskan king salmon. Retracing his life, the author leads us on a voyage of self-discovery, ultimately realizing the valuable and diverse lessons he learned from his one-of-a-kind dad.
“He thinks like them fish think,” author Sunn recalls hearing locals from his hometown of Ackerman, Mississippi, marvel about his father, James William “Moon” Sunn. In this striking memoir, the younger Sunn, a pastor, honors the figure that loomed so tall in Ackerman, a fisherman of great repute, in the Gulf and Alaska and the lakes that WPA projects created in Mississippi; a friend to stray dogs and stray people; the man everybody called for whenever somebody faced drowning in Choctaw Lake. The adventures of “Moon,” as the father was known, and his “all-out pursuit of fish,” make for irresistible reading, especially as Sunn often shares them in Moon’s own inimitable voice: “A boat gives you an unfair advantage,” Moon says, explaining his preference for wading when fishing for salmon. “You never feel the fish’s full power because once you hook ’em, you can just drift with ’em.”

But Moon and Sunn is a richer, more moving book than it is just a collection of excellent fish stories. Sunn notes that stories of Moon have inevitably gotten exaggerated over the years, especially around Ackerman, and in his retellings he takes pain to filet away the elements of tall-tale. That means even the wildest stories—Moon representing himself in court when accused of killing a doe illegally; Moon attempting to float his canoe 85 miles from the family home to a reservoir during Mississippi’s Easter Flood of 1979—stay refreshingly human scaled.

Touchingly, Sunn never shies away from the challenges of having a folk hero as a father, and his accounts of at times feeling isolated in the great man’s shadow, especially after Moon’s divorce from Sunn’s mother in the early 1960s, have real power. Sunn’s prose is clear and strong as a mountain stream current, and this tribute to—and reckoning with—his father will get its hook into lovers of outdoor adventure and father-son stories.

Takeaway: Rousing outdoor adventures, fish tales, and touching father-son storytelling make this memoir stand out.

Great for fans of: Luke Jennings’s Blood Knots, Dean Kuipers's The Deer Camp.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-