Home Waters: A Chronicle of Family and a River (Paperback)

Home Waters: A Chronicle of Family and a River By John N. Maclean Cover Image
Temporarily Unavailable


“Beautiful. ... A lyrical companion to his father’s classic, A River Runs through It, chronicling their family’s history and bond with Montana’s Blackfoot River.” —Washington Post

A "poetic" and "captivating" (Publishers Weekly) memoir about the power of place to shape generations, Home Waters is John N. Maclean's remarkable chronicle of his family's century-long love affair with Montana's majestic Blackfoot River, the setting for his father's classic novella, A River Runs through It. Maclean returns annually to the simple family cabin that his grandfather built by hand, still in search of the trout of a lifetime. When he hooks it at last, decades of longing promise to be fulfilled, inspiring John, reporter and author, to finally write the story he was born to tell. 

A book that will resonate with everyone who feels deeply rooted to a landscape, Home Waters is a portrait of a family who claimed a river, from one generation to the next, of how this family came of age in the 20th century and later as they scattered across the country, faced tragedy and success, yet were always drawn back to the waters that bound them together. Here are the true stories behind the beloved characters fictionalized in A River Runs through It, including the Reverend Maclean, the patriarch who introduced the family to fishing; Norman, who balanced a life divided between literature and the tug of the rugged West; and tragic yet luminous Paul (played by Brad Pitt in Robert Redford’s film adaptation), whose mysterious death has haunted the family and led John to investigate his uncle’s murder and reveal new details in these pages.

A universal story about nature, family, and the art of fly fishing, Maclean’s memoir beautifully captures the inextricable ways our personal histories are linked to the places we come from—our home waters. 

Featuring twelve wood engravings by Wesley W. Bates and a map of the Blackfoot River region.

About the Author

John N. Maclean is the author of Home Waters, a memoir of his family’s four-generation connection to Montana’s Blackfoot River, which his father, Norman Maclean, made famous in A River Runs through It. He spent thirty years at the Chicago Tribune, then wrote five nonfiction books about wildland fire that are considered a staple of fire literature. Maclean, an avid fly fisherman, lives in Washington, DC, and at a family cabin in Montana.

Praise For…

“A lyrical companion to his father’s classic, chronicling their family’s history and bond with Montana’s Blackfoot River. His storytelling—from the fishing with his dad to the life and death of his uncle Paul—is reliable, elegant and charming. … Spectacularly vivid and personal. … While Maclean’s journalistic prose is sharp and concise, it can also be beautiful.” — Washington Post

"The prose in Home Waters, which is often transporting, flows with a shadow-cast grace. ... The best word I can think of to describe Home Waters also happens to be the Maclean’s family word: beautiful." — Field & Stream

"A memoir about the Maclean family’s four-generation tie to Montana’s Blackfoot River that elaborates on the back story of Norman Maclean’s extraordinary 1976 novella A River Runs Through It." — Wall Street Journal

"Maclean’s father, Norman, wrote the classic novella A River Runs through It. This memoir is an ode to its inspirations." — New York Times Book Review, "New & Noteworthy"

"Graceful and compelling. ... Greatly expands what we might already know about Montana, fly fishing and the meaning of family. ... This is a great book." — Chicago Tribune

“A worthy non-fiction companion to his father’s classic, A River Runs Through It. … Reminded me of Herman Melville recounting whaling minutiae in Moby Dick. … Throughout Home Waters, Maclean shows that he’s a real writer. But he’s also a real reporter with a long career for the Chicago Tribune." — Chicago Sun-Times

“A wonderful book about fathers, sons, brothers, and family." — USA Today

“A moving memoir of a family’s love affair with the Blackfoot River in Montana. … Lovers of literature and nature will be captivated by this heartfelt tribute to place and family.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“In this welcome companion to an American classic, John N. Maclean casts a story of place, family, and legacy: of highland streams and woodlands, and the gifts waiting in their depths; of a quiet father with much to share; and of the sometimes meandering, sometimes tumbling courses that carry us through life. A spare, patient, and compelling reminiscence that stays with you.” — Earl Swift, New York Times bestselling author of Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island

"Finally, a brilliant, intimate, and reliable chronicle of the remarkable Maclean family and the origins of a great book, welded seamlessly to the memorable angling days and writing life of a central member. I loved Home Waters."  — Nick Lyons, author of Spring Creek

"I can honestly say I loved Home Waters. Reading it felt like a visit with old friends--the characters from A River Runs through It—who you haven’t seen in a long while, during which you learned some things you’d never known before. John N. Maclean’s book does a wonderful job of illustrating the importance of family and place—something we can all relate to even if the particulars of our stories are very different." — Kirby Lambert, Montana Historical Society

“John Maclean's Home Waters is a wonderful reflection on how a sense of place and shared activity, especially sport, defines our lives, our families, and the meaning we find in them.” — David Brooks, executive director, Montana Trout Unlimited

“Maclean’s Hemingway-esque prose is as clear as a mountain stream, flowing with a poetic cadence and lyrically describing the many splendid natural treasures to be found under the Big Sky. A sure bet for readers who enjoy American and natural history and a must-read for fishing enthusiasts.” — Booklist

“Maclean offers a lyrical love letter to Montana’s Blackfoot River, fishing, and his storied family in this captivating memoir. … Fans of his father’s novella will relish the details that served as its inspiration and are here rendered in Maclean’s sharp yet poetic prose. … This richly observed narrative is sure to reel readers in.” — Publishers Weekly

“The mythology of fly-fishing in the West is richer because of this book.” — Angler's Journal

"A must-read. ... Its narrative revolves around relationships rooted in Montana's favorite pastime, connecting with anyone who covets the meditative value of casting for trout on familiar rivers. ... Pick up a copy to read this summer and let your mind wander to the waters you call home." — Outside Bozeman

“Even if you aren’t a fly-fishing aficionado and don’t know a wet fly from a dry one, you just might be hooked within the first few pages as Maclean reels you into this engaging book of family, place and history.” — Helena Independent Record

"John Maclean has filled in the holes of his father’s story with Home Waters. Where Norman used his book to make his peace with his past, John’s narrative shows how his dad, like a savvy trout that always avoids the hook, learned to distinguish truth from imitation and pass that wisdom on to the next generation. ... John didn’t fall far from the Maclean writing tree. Like his father, the longtime Chicago Tribune writer has an affinity for crafting his experiences in aesthetic tones." — Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

"In Home Waters, John Maclean brings readers back to his family’s love of Seeley Lake and a life spent out of doors, a life marked by both magic and tragedy, but always by fly fishing for trout. Good reading." — Petoskey News-Review

"A testament to the power of place and the love that binds us, throughout the generations. Home Waters is a keeper." — Flathead Living Magazine

"Wonderful...Maclean tells his life story in his own way, uniquely and with eloquence and style." — The Piscatorial Journal

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062944603
ISBN-10: 0062944606
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: June 14th, 2022
Pages: 272
Language: English