Alaska Waters follows Will’s search for his place in the world when he realizes he cannot be the son his father had always hoped for. The Koch family has been commercial salmon fishermen in Alaska for three generations, but Will cannot feel his father’s empathy for the sea. Will struggles to find himself in this last frontier among people he often feels alienated from, regardless of how much he loves them. His father has remarried, and Will sharply contrasts with his father’s stepson. At the same time Will is exploring his own sexuality and the values he wants to shape his own life.
Shortly after his arrival, a series of accidents threatens the survival of the entire fishing operation, and high seas, grueling work, and hostile competitors test everyone’s endurance. In the end, Will learns when it is necessary to compromise and when he must take a stand.
The challenge of the environment, raw yet often beautiful, underlines the themes of the novel: that growing up can be harsh yet illuminating, that a strong body has to be matched with a strong spirit, and that the worst conditions breed the greatest triumphs.
Alaska Waters' story takes place against the backdrop of America's newest state, the harsh, unforgiving environment of its last frontier, and its unusual people and their frontier culture.