At twenty-eight years old, Eli “Berg” Koenigsberg has never encountered a challenge he couldn’t push through – until a concussion leaves him with a lingering headache and a weakness for opiates. Berg moves to a remote Northern California town to seek 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 important a new approach to his suffering, a template for survival amidst intense pain. Nurtured by his friendship with Alejandro and aided by the comradeship of many of Talinas’s colorful residents, 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.
Praise for The Boatbuilder:
“The Boatbuilder offers a decidedly gentle, sometimes quietly rewarding window onto the attempted recovery of an American opioid addict. It’s a fictional companion piece of sorts to nonfiction books about self-reliance like Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft or Alexander Langlands’s Craeft, which argue for the emotional benefits of unplugging and working with your hands. Capturing those interior benefits in fiction is a delicate act, and Gumbiner, the managing editor of The Believer magazine, pins a sense of well-being to the page while other times approaching his themes too explicitly.”
—John Williams, The New York Times
“This is an utterly beautiful book. To read it is to understand that you have been waiting for it.”
“The reader goes on this winding journey with Berg. At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to tag along. The lost, drug-addicted 20-something is, sadly, a bit familiar. But I found myself drawn into Berg’s story, wanting to learn more about him and this community in which he finds himself, willing to follow all the twists and turns. Gumbiner writes beautifully, and he creates a unique world here. There’s something so gentle about Berg, in his awareness of the world and the people around him. He cares. He has a sense of humor. He wants to turn his life around.”
—Laura Spence-Ash, Ploughshares
“A testament to Gumbiner’s fine writing, readers will easily slip into Berg’s day-to-day existence; Gumbiner relays Berg’s ambivalence, desperation, and anxiety without resorting to over-the-top scenarios or dialogue. He allows his characters and small-town setting to shine in this beautiful novel about finding one’s place, no matter how small, in the world.”
“The Boatbuilder is a gorgeous debut about addiction, aspiration, and art on the California coast. It’s radiantly imagined, often moving, always funny, and teeming with life. Daniel Gumbiner isn’t a writer to watch—he’s one to read.”
“Daniel Gumbiner brings coastal California into sparkling focus in this moving story of a young man’s transition into adulthood. Told with wit and heart, The Boatbuilder is a meditation on love, loyalty, and the shared experiences that turn strangers into family.”
“This book’s alive. The Boatbuilder is a surprising and soulful first novel and it deserves many, many readers.”