The Gods of Second Chances by Dan Berne

Dan Berne

Family means everything to Alaskan fisherman Ray Bancroft, raising his granddaughter while battling storms, invasive species, and lawsuit-happy tourists. To navigate, and to catch enough crab to feed her college fund, Ray seeks help from a multitude of gods and goddesses—not to mention ad-libbed rituals performed at sea by his half-Tlingit best friend.

But kitchen counter statues and otter bone ceremonies aren’t enough when his estranged daughter returns from prison, swearing she’s clean and sober. Her search for a safe harbor threatens everything Ray holds sacred. Set against a backdrop of ice and mud and loss, Dan Berne’s gripping debut novel explores the unpredictable fissures of memory, and how families can break apart even in the midst of healing.

Dan BernePaperback ISBN: 978-0-9882657-4-5 • 6 x 9 • Literary fiction • Release date: March 2014 • Illustrations by Reid Psaltis

Author Dan Berne has been an active member of a select writing workgroup led by author Karen Karbo for ten years. His short stories and poetry have been published in literary magazines. Dan owns a market strategy consultancy, and lives with his wife Aliza in Portland, Oregon. His debut novel was chosen for publication during Forest Avenue Press’ 2013 open submission period.


“With a story as riveting as it is fresh and characters as profound and compelling as the water that surrounds them, Dan Berne’s The Gods of Second Chances is a gorgeous plunge into the depth of the bonds of blood and belief.”

–Rachael Herron, bestselling author of Pack Up the Moon

“Every so often a novel comes along that feels like nothing you’ve read before. Dan Berne’s The Gods of Second Chances is one of those, soulful and shattering in equal measure. Berne shines a light on rarely visited corners of both the world and the human heart in a page-turning story that stays with you long after you’ve reached the end. Be prepared to be amazed.”– Karen Karbo, bestselling author of Julia Child Rules

“With The Gods of Second Chances, Dan Berne has created a world that is immediate and true, tender and tough as nails, with a protagonist, Ray Bancroft, to match. Ray’s struggle to stay afloat, to keep his family safe, is a harrowing one, full of ominous portents, dangerous adversaries, and hard-earned triumphs. Through it all, Berne navigates the treacherous waters of the human heart with a deft but unsparing touch. The Gods of Second Chances is a terrific debut from a talented writer.”

– Rob Yardumian, author of The Sound of Songs Across the Water

More praise

“For all the difficult issues Berne’s novel tackles—broken families, financial struggles, missed opportunities to find love, and the way grief and anger can color our memories—there’s plenty to like about this story. Characters are well drawn, the dialogue is sharp, and the story moves along at a fast clip.

– Linc Bedrosian, National Fisherman

“Can I just say… I loved this book. Rarely have I come across a novel that blends story-telling, drama, and great writing quite as well as The Gods of Second Chances. I confess—I bought this book for my husband, but when he fell asleep, I snagged it, and couldn’t put it down. There are moments of sadness, well-paced reveals, lush landscape description, fantastic and honest character sketches—all the things I look for in a stay-up-all-night read. Also, the book itself is beautiful. You want this one on your shelves.”

– Suzy Vitello, author of The Moment Before

“Second chances abound throughout the story, from Ray raising his granddaughter in a second crack at parenthood to Jenny’s attempts to get clean and Ray’s multiple attempts to date a local therapist. Faith plays a strong thematic role as well, with Ray’s sailor superstitions (the Buddha statue he rubs every time he takes the boat out, and the collection of deity statues he keeps around his home) and the conflict all this creates when his daughter returns as a born-again Christian.”

– Jeff Fleisher, Foreword Reviews 

“His debut novel, The Gods of Second Chances, is the story of a man overwhelmed by the things beyond his control: a granddaughter on the verge of adolescence, a daughter returning from prison rehab, a frivolous lawsuit, and falling for the one woman he can’t have, all while trying to fish his living out of a fickle ocean in the mercurial weather of southeast Alaska. It’s no wonder that one god isn’t enough for him.”

– Leigh Anne Kranz, KBOO’s “Between the Covers”

“The Gods of Second Chances” is emotionally charged family drama, but it’s never sappy or sentimental—it’s Alaska, where Hilda’s Pharmacy has a selection of birthday and sympathy cards but nothing of the Hallmark variety. You could try faith and forgiveness in a few lines of canned poetry, but it won’t hit anywhere close to home. The Gods of Second Chances is another story.”

– Brian Juenemann, Register-Guard

“I love this story of a grandfather seeking help from any god or goddess who will step in, as he raises his granddaughter. When the child’s mother returns from prison, the fragile family ecosystem Ray has established is shaken to its bedrock.”

– Néna Rawdah, bookseller, St. Johns Booksellers

“Rituals, deities and folklore are another strong theme sprinkled throughout the novel, from Tlingit legends to Christian saints and maritime superstitions.”

– Ashley Swanson, reporter, The Columbian

“Every year at Christmas I like to give myself the gift of reading an entire book purely for my own pleasure, and this year I spent Christmas Day sitting by my wood stove with a fire crackling and Dan’s page-turning narrative alive in my hands.  It’s the kind of book that pulls you through to the end with that feeling of ‘I’ve just got to know what happens next.’ The Alaska setting is vividly depicted in Dan’s lucid prose, and his understanding of the family dynamics involved in the return of an errant daughter from prison to a family that is suspicious of her every move makes for a compelling read.”

– Stevan Allred, author of A Simplified Map of the Real World

“What a page turner! I could not put The Gods of Second Chances down, and could totally relate to the need to fight passionately for family and the life one has chosen.”

– Laurel Rain-Snow Sandone, reviewer, Rainy Days and Mondays

“The book moves at a beautiful clip, depicting how we can get hurt in family, using this hurt to defend ourselves against the world.”

– Christi Krug, author of Burn Wild and founder of Wildfire Writing

“Dan Berne’s The Gods of Second Chances could be a long-form entry in the FisherPoets fest; the book’s protagonist, Ray, is an Alaskan fisherman struggling to make a living and care for his granddaughter, Sitka, who’s been his ward since his meth-addicted daughter disappeared years before.”

– Alison Hallett, reviewer, Portland Mercury

The Gods of Second Chances is a poignant and sad first novel, and we can look forward to more from the compelling Dan Berne.”

– Norman West, reviewer, The Portland Book Review

What I love about this story is its unassuming premise, and the humble characters that live ordinary lives in the unforgiving Alaskan landscape. Ray’s story is one that could happen to anybody, and I was rooting for him from the opening scene.”

– Gwen Stephens, reviewer, The 4 a.m. Writer 

Author Dan Berne brings the Alaskan scenery to life effortlessly as he weaves the tale of a broken family trying to reunite, missing one of its members, and struggling to fit the pieces back together.”

– Valerie Lawson, blogger, Barbies on Fire

“The protagonist of Dan Berne’s beautiful novel, The Gods of Second Chances, might be said to be at odds with his destiny too, as he plies Alaskan waters while caring for a granddaughter who maybe needs a mother. But her mother left long ago, and rubbing a native god’s belly may or may not bring the right sort of luck. Sue-happy modernity meets tradition, legalism meets faith and hope, and the ocean gives and takes as the gods might choose.”

– Sheila Deeth, blogger/reviewer

Reviews and Interviews

49 Writers: Spotlight on Alaska Books

ForeWord Reviews

KBOO “Between the Covers” interview

Rose City Reader: Book Beginnings

Late Night Library’s Rookie Report

Eugene Register-Guard

Willamette Week

The Columbian

Rainy Days and Mondays

Dan Berne and Stevan Allred recorded at Clackamas Community College

Christi Krug of Wildfire Writing

Portland Mercury

Dan’s essay, “Table Manners,” on NW Book Lovers

Suzy Vitello’s review on NW Book Lovers

Spring books preview

Interview on Rachael Herron’s blog

We Wanted to Be Writers

Gwen Stephens

Portland Book Review

Valerie Lawson

The Book Binder’s Daughter

National Fisherman

Sheila Deeth

Book Chat with Alan Rose: a video, including conversation about the writing process and two excerpts

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