Aransas Cover

A critically acclaimed debut novel first published in 1980, Aransas recounts a young man’s attempt to find his place in the world as he navigates the moral dilemma of training an “exquisitely conscious being” to perform in a seaside dolphin circus.



“Stephen Harrigan's novel is a subtly told and deeply felt story about our attempts to capture those things we hope can make life meaningful--even while fate waits to flip-flop our plans, baiting and pushing us forward. And it is comical and touching to see that the real show in Aransas is not a porpoise circus, full of farce and silliness, but the characters' ceaseless efforts to move with half those creatures' grace and mystery.”—Ann Beattie

“Mysterious, noble, astounding, and quite powerful. . . “—Kirkus Reviews

”In this remarkable first novel, Harrigan. . . has a sharp eye for observing man, beast, seashore, and town in a vividly drawn setting.”—Publishers' Weekly

“What I like most is that Aransas is a book worth thinking about. Harrigan's themes, unlike those of too many contemporary books, seem to be enhanced rather than diminished by scrutiny.”—Houston City Magazine

“A sensitive, enormously evocative first novel in a spare but warm prose style that immerses us in atmosphere as insistently as it does the plot. . . Harrigan is a splendid novelist.”—Houston Post

“Stephen Harrigan has found his own, mature voice, and Aransas is absolutely worth reading.”—The Dallas Morning News

”Harrigan. . . is literate and clever, and he uses the reader's pop familiarity with the Big Fish genre--from Melville's and Benchley's totemic fish-bites-man tales to thehomey success of the Flipper Films. . . to his savvy advantage. Aransas has several surprises, including dramatic suspense, counterculture revisionism, and what must be considered dolphin revisionism. More, Harrigan has written an acute American regional novel. . . “—The Village Voice

”The American novel may not be dying, but it is ailing. . . Maybe the form will be brought back to health by young novelists like Stephen Harrigan and first novels such as his Aransas. Harrigan has integrity--which, he shows, is not synonymous with dullness. The final pages of Aransas compel your interest as completely as any thriller and gain from the fact that the conflict involved is at least as much moral as it is physical. As a novelist, Harrigan doesn't take the easy way, even when it beckons.”—The Kansas City Star

“The sureness and poise of this first novel are as remarkable as the sharpness, oddity and clarity of its feelings. . . Aransas is an elegant debut.”—Newsweek

“Harrigan makes an auspicious debut as a powerful and sensitive story-teller.”—The Chattanooga Sun Times

“Harrigan's eye for locale and its effect is superb, particularly his descriptions of the muddy, littered coast. . .”—The Washington Post Book World

“Remarkably free of literary posturing, stylish yet unpretentious, Aransas is a novel of considerable charm and wit.”—The Washington Star

“At the end of the book, we feel we have lived somewhere, known some people and suffered their quandaries as our own. It is exactly what good story-telling is all about.”—The Philadelphia Enquirer

“From the very first page, the reader is aware of a shapeliness and solidity in every sentence Harrigan writes and, what is more rare, in every paragraph. This is a first novel of unusual distinction. . . Aransas deserves to be widely cherished.”—The Flint (Mich.) Journal

“Stephen Harrigan has lavished charm, intelligence, and intuitive feeling on what in clumsier hands could have been a mere variation on the stories of boys and their dogs. Aransas is far better and deeper than that; it is an ardent and elegant book, beautiful in its language, mature in its perceptions, noble in its sentiments. . . “—Ron Hansen, The San Francisco Chronicle

“A resonant first novel. Beneath its genial surface, allusive undercurrents tug.”—Michael Malone, The New York Times Book Review

“I think Harrigan is fishing in the really 'deep waters,' the places where sometimes you find a white whale. The nonchalantly exact details of locale are wonderful in themselves, but the real power of the book is in that surging 'behavior' that binds beings to one another. It's really a fine and elegant work.”—Max Apple