Book Reviews

Book Review: Relapse by Jake Anderson – When Life Throws You a Curve, Go Fishing

Rating: 4 out of 5.

One of the few “reality” shows I like to watch is Deadliest Catch. Although some of it is edited to show more drama, I find it really interesting to see how hard it is for these fishermen (and women) to keep catching some of the food we really like. Over the course of the series run, I have witnessed Jake Anderson grow from a greenhorn deckhand to Captain and part-owner of the Saga.

His story is one that resonates with me, having lost my daughter more than 8 years ago now to suicide due to her addiction. In Relapse, Anderson details his early life and what led him to addiction that, at one point, caused him to be homeless for two years. In his early days, he was an avid skateboarder. He had designs on going pro and had possible sponsors lined up before an accident ended it all. His best friend, whom he dragged along with him, ended up achieving the success Anderson had once thought would be his.

This situation was what sent him on the path to addiction. He doesn’t make excuses but lays out the situation pretty matter-of-factly as to what sent him on the path. The only thing he still had was fishing. At age 17 he had worked on a salmon tender and returned to fishing as a way to beat his addiction. If you’ve watched the show or been in that world at all, you’ll know it’s a profession replete with addicts, so this doesn’t necessarily seem like a great decision on his part. However, when he started crab fishing, he ended up on the F/V Northwestern under Sig Hansen. Sig is a no-nonsense Captain who took Jake under his wing, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Anderson is honest here, showing how a good kid with a good family behind him can still descend into drugs when life throws you a few curveballs. He had family that loved him and he still was sucked in, to the point that he had to stay away from them. He admits there was nothing they could do until he was ready to help himself.

Fans of the show saw what he went through with his sister’s illness and death as well as his father’s disappearance and murder. Here, he gives more detail as to what was going on that wasn’t broadcast, particularly with his father. What’smissing though is any real insight into being n the show and crab fishing. There’s no “behind the scenes” dirt or revelations about the cast and crew. He writes with great reverence for pretty much everyone on the show, especially Sig Hansen. It was nice to read about how close he and Phil Harris were since viewers only see a small amount of what goes on. Reading the books by the various show participants has really given much more depth to the show as I realize there’s a lot more camaraderie than rivalry among the boats.

The book was published in 2014, just when he took over on the Saga. There are no great revelations there, either, as viewers watched the former Captain descend into addiction including using while being the Captain. Anderson is not the best author I’ve read, but he’s very honest and upfront about his life, including his faults. I have to give him a lot of credit for coming clean with his fans about his background. It’s easy to drink in the admiration of the public and can be hard to admit you’re not the person they like on television. Personally, I still admire him, seeing all that he’s overcome. He’s an inspiration for other addicts and their families.

I think Relapse is more for series fans than the general public. Readers who aren’t familiar with some of the people on the show might get lost in a few places. It’s not really a book about fishing or crab fishing; it’s more about an addict who manages to straighten out his life thanks to fishing. That’s still a great thing to read and I enjoyed it.

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