Bookshelf

"The Catch" by William Vande KoppleThe Catch: Families, Fishing, and Faith
by William Vande Kopple '72, Calvin English professor, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 216 pp.

The Catch: Families, Fishing, and Faith spins together 20 stories — most of them modest in length, ranging from four to 27 pages — with fishing at their center. Many of them involve Calvin English professor and author William Vande Kopple, his three sons — now all strapping, young men ranging in height from 6’2” to 6’6” — and their adventures in fishing with their father. Some of them backtrack further, to when Vande Kopple himself was a boy and first fished; those stories often draw in Vande Kopple’s father and other relatives. But all of the stories say something, often implicitly, about life and faith and what’s important.

Vande Kopple said fishing and writing have similar appeals for him.

“They’re both kind of a puzzle,” he said. “In fishing, obviously you’re trying to figure out where the fish are, what to use to catch them, what they’re hitting on. But when you write, you’re puzzling out things, too: the arc of the story, how it begins and where it ends and why. That can be really hard sometimes. But in both cases — in fishing and in writing — it’s very satisfying when it all comes together. There’s no thrill for me like the thrill of a strike. But finishing a story is pretty good, too.”

The Catch, while it deals with faith, is not a straight devotional, said Vande Kopple, noting that the first chapter in the book is titled “Sex Ed: My Early Years.” In that tale a young Vande Kopple learns an important life lesson from his father — a tool-and-die maker — during a salmon fishing trip.

Rather, said Vande Kopple, the book uses fishing as a focal point for musings about such topics as marriage, fatherhood, growing up, getting old, being scared, keeping Sunday sacred and a host of other puzzles.

Those deep subjects are a natural outgrowth of his time spent in and on the water, Vande Kopple said.

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“One of the things I like about fishing,” he said, “is the chance to be reflective, to be in a place that is silent and to concentrate on fishing, but also have time to think.”

Interestingly, like any good fish story, The Catch is not completely non-fiction. Although it is based on real people and real fishing holes in such Michigan locales as the Grand River, Flat River, Hess Lake, Myers Lake and the Grand Haven pier, Vande Kopple has fictionalized many of the stories.

“My parents,” he said with a laugh, “are very happy about that and point out to everyone who buys the book that it’s not all true.”

Regardless of the degree of fiction or non-fiction, what is plain is that life’s lessons learned at the end of a rod and reel have benefited Vande Kopple over the years. And now, thanks to The Catch, his reflections are being shared — the literary equivalent of the kind of fishing Vande Kopple likes best: catch and release.

"Nigeria's Decades of Blood" (Vol. 1 of Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations)Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations
by Jan H. Boer '62, Belleville: Essence Publishing. Vol. 1: Nigeria's Decades of Blood, 155 pp., including index. Vol. 2: Muslims: Why the Violence? 193 pp., including index. Vol. 3: Christians: Why This Muslim Violence? 2004, 334 pp., including index.

This series explores the religious violence that has marked Nigeria since the early 1980s. It then goes on to explain the Muslim and Christian views of this violence. The ultimate aims of these books are to contribute to peace by explaining both positions extensively to each group and to advocate for change through a holistic approach to both religions.

"A Slender Grace" by Rod JellemaA Slender Grace
by Rod Jellema ’51, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 109 pp.

In this volume, Rod Jellema confronts a culture that loves bigness with poems that notice what is slender — the thin lines, the threads by which some things hang, the narrow crevices through which divine grace offers to reconcile humans to one another and to the Creator. Throughout the 67 poems, Jellema takes a second, deeper look at such things as green beans in all their glory; a lovesick, lonely young man in a laundromat; and his own sense of the world while snorkeling in the Red Sea. A Slender Grace was named 2004 Book of the Year by the Conference on Christianity and Literature, a national organization of scholars, teachers, and writers who take a special interest in the Christian faith as it is reflected in literature.

"Christ, Baptism and the Lord's Supper" by Leonard Vander ZeeChrist, Baptism and the Lord's Supper: Recovering the Sacraments for Evangelical Worship
by Leonard Vander Zee ’67 MDiv’70, Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 245 pp.

Often the subject of debate, the sacraments are likewise neglected and superficially understood. Leonard Vander Zee makes a case that these problems can be overcome when we see the connection between baptism and the Lord’s Supper and the continuing ministry of Jesus Christ.