Alexi Zentner is one of the greatest literary architects and mythmakers working today.
A powerhouse of a novel. Alexi Zentner proves himself to be a writer of the first rank.
Steeped in familial legend and dusted with maritime magic…Zentner keeps a firm grip on his tale.
Zentner’s second novel (after Touch) is brutal and beautiful. Heroine Cordelia Kings is a member of the legendary lobster-fishing Kings family, which has been plying their trade for 300 years on Loosewood Island, Maine. Her family line began with painter and fisherman Brumfitt Kings, who believed his wife was a gift from the sea. Gifts come with a price, and there is a legend that the Kings suffer from a curse; the curse appears to be real when Cordelia’s brother, Scotty, dies (he was expected to be heir to the family lobster company, but, as it turns out, wasn’t the waterman Cordelia is). As times change, so do threats. Lobstermen from nearby James Harbor moved into the Loosewood fishing territory some time ago; now they’re also running drugs. But Loosewood’s small population (including Cordelia’s two younger sisters and her tyrannical father) can’t wait around for the authorities to react; they take care of things themselves, igniting a spark that starts the book’s escalating conflict. Zentner gets the reader to root for Cordelia very early on. His fusion of myth and mission, fury and beauty, as well as the palpable sense of place in this unique corner of the world add up to a memorable tale. (May)
Just as compelling as the dragons, mermaids and selkies that may inhabit the waters of Loosewood Island are its year-round residents, besieged by tourists, art historians and drug smugglers. With a knowing nod to King Lear, The Lobster Kings follows a patriarch's fading powers and a dynasty's uncertain future in the face of a changing world. As in his wonderful debut, Touch, Alexi Zentner gives us a family saga that contains the origin story of a magical, once timeless place where the past and present must inevitably collide.”
Steeped in the lore of the sea with a nod to the grand scope of Shakespeare's King Lear, Zentner's satisfying family saga (following Touch) explores the Kings family's mythical past and the unsettling truth of their future. The family has been like royalty on Loosewood Island since Brumfitt Kings, whose paintings and journals reveal the family history, arrived from Ireland 300 years ago. Woody Kings, the aging patriarch, assumed his son Scotty would be the rightful heir, but tragedy forces Woody to put his oldest daughter Cordelia at the helm of the Queen Jane. All but invisible to her father, Cordelia has worked on her father's boat since she was a young girl and has grown into a courageous, independent woman in a world dominated by men. The one true daughter, she steps up to confront drug runners and ruthless poachers threatening the Kings's age-old territory. Unsure of her place in a family circle shared by two sisters, Rena and Carly, Cordelia puts aside sibling rivalry and her own promising love interest to fight for her family's legacy. VERDICT Award-winning Zentner's literary tour de force takes hold of the reader's imagination and doesn't let go. Extraordinary storytelling not to be missed.—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Palisade, CO
An ugly turf war between Maine lobstermen is almost eclipsed by family mythology in this slow-moving second novel from Zentner (Touch, 2011). Loosewood Island, a disputed territory, straddles the U.S.-Canada border, reflecting the author's U.S.-Canadian heritage. Since the 18th century, it has been dominated by the Kings family. The first Kings, Brumfitt, was both lobsterman and prolific painter. He claimed in his journal that his wife came from the sea, like a mermaid. She brought a blessing (the sea would provide for them) and a curse (it would claim a son from each generation). Both predictions have been borne out. The current patriarch, Woody, has three daughters (Cordelia, the narrator; Rena; and Carly) and one son, Scotty. Better watch out, kid! Sure enough, when the boy is 9, he's swept overboard and dies. Soon after, his distraught mother drowns herself. Meanwhile the nearest community, James Harbor, has been poaching their waters. Inspired by a Brumfitt painting, Woody smashes the ringleader's hand with a hammer, meriting four months in the psych ward. We have to work through a lot of back story before reaching the present. Woody is 57 and having dizzy spells. The no-nonsense Cordelia captains her own boat and is his acknowledged successor. The James Harbor boys are acting up again, adding meth smuggling to their poaching. But even now the story fails to zip along. There are interludes when Cordelia turns docent, as she describes Brumfitt's paintings, one of which hangs in the Met. Today's problems (will Cordelia snag her newly divorced sternman? How will her sister's lesbian partner handle working with Woody?) seem picayune, set against the mythic past. Even the discovery of a mutilated body on a ghost ship lacks a payoff. Toward the end, the ocean grabs yet another family member, and there's some unconvincing bang-bang as Cordelia confronts the meth smuggler. That corny ancient curse is an awkward fit with contemporary shenanigans.