This book is part mythology; part wonderful story-telling, with allusions to King Lear. It is based on the lobster industry and narrated by a strong female character. Zentner manages to evoke the realities of life on the ocean while moving the story forward in an interesting and enticing manner. Like the albatross in the Ancient Mariner, the mythology tied to the Kings family runs throughout the story and often appears to direct events. The story of King Lear hovers in the background and creates, in the reader, an anticipation of things to come.
I assume the author was combining two distinct literary genres, fantasy and reality, using each to clarify the other. I think this approach works very well. Each side of the narrative evolves as the novel progresses and provides a richer story as a result. My sense is that people who work on the ocean have a very high regard for its power and use beliefs such as those described in the book to help deal with events over which they have no control. Zentner not only provides an interesting technique but also enables the reader to understand the characters’ need for a belief in creatures that might otherwise seem outlandish in a different setting.
I feel that Zentner has written this book for anyone who enjoys a good story, beautiful writing, realistic description, an interest in parallel stories and strong characters. I believe his audience would be wide and varied but I do not think a committed reader of fantasy would necessarily appreciate it – though it might provide a nice transition into this genre.
Reviewed by: Trish Biggs