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Daniel Gumbiner Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Boatbuilder (2018) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Daniel Gumbiner is American author fiction books. Born and raised in Northern California, Gumbiner is a graduate of UC Berkeley and a resident of Southern Nevada. The author’s debut novel The Boatbuilder featured in New York Times website and listed for the 2018 National Book Award. The book has been described as a gorgeous debut about aspiration, addiction, and art in California that’s radiantly imagined, funny, moving and teeming with life.

The Boatbuilder

Daniel Gumbiner’s debut novel The Boatbuilder kicks off with Eli Koenigsberg fixing himself through the window of Northern California house in search of prescription painkillers. The small fictional town of Talina’s isn’t used to burglary and so is the main character Eli who’s popularly known as Berg.
You might be thinking that breaking would offer a heart-racing start to The Boatbuilder, but the author quickly switches to a different pace. The main character risks getting caught, but the author makes us go slowly alongside with him ransacking the house and searching the contents of disappointing drawers.
Berg soon finds what he’s been looking for- a bottle of pain pills and immediately takes four.

The Boatbuilder is a story that offers gentle and at times rewarding glimpse on the attempted road to recovery of an opioid addict. The story itself is an excellent fictional companion to nonfiction books such as Craft by Alexander Langlands and Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford which detail the importance of unplugging and relying on hard work.

Capturing the benefits of unplugging in fiction is a brilliant idea, and Daniel Gumbiner accurately pins sense of well-being to the story, and his themes are well and clearly expressed.

The author reveals to the readers that Berg has recently relocated to the small coastal town from San Francisco. He is waiting for his girlfriend Nell to return from a music tour. It’s during this waiting period that Berg convinces himself to remain “high” until his girlfriend returns home.

Berg is a “digital refugee” as one character in the book calls him. For 36 months he worked for an antivirus company and now at 27 years he’s made it out. It’s during the years working at the anti-virus company that he developed addiction treating a brain injury as a result of a skiing accident.

Berg now works as a Boatbuilder but not the only one in the book. The other Boatbuilder is Alejandro Vega, his teacher who’s in his mid-60’s. Alejandro is an autodidact, a retired anthropologist who at times spirals into his uncertain hobbies such as making portable pasteurizers and carving Elizabethan lutes for his wife. His business thrives naturally because he and his team create wooden boats for a notorious drug dealer JC who uses the boats to transport marijuana from Mexico.

Despite Berg’s direct involvement with narcotics trade and his struggles with drug addiction, the story’s tensions simmer way more than they boil. After all, the author is in pursuit of wisdom, not thrills.

The cast of small fictional town characters that the author imagines can be compared to that of an early 1990’s Indie movie- which is good. The setting itself and the people are undoubtedly alive. For example, there is a character named Woody whose conversational stratagem includes explaining why he is not addicted to the Six Flags. The local folks also look forward to an event in which a man will exhibit his five decades of bobcat photography.

Additionally, there are some duelling bodies of knowledge in the story. One consists of the bleak specifics of both getting high and clean and the tricks of the two. Berg remembers he was given Baclofen, Clonidine, Gabapentin and Meloxicam to help him sleep. Once he is clean, getting high is much easier since his tolerance has been significantly lowered.

Set against the above mentioned are the pleasures of looking closely at the natural world and making things hand by hand. Over time Berg learns how to work using a chisel and also get to learn how different species of wood dry.

There is also a lot of information about boatbuilding and a fair amount about fishing and daily life in a local coastal town. The story vividly captures the feel of these places, its unique crafter with interesting primary and secondary characters.

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