The Lobster Kings by Alexi ZentnerThe Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner

The Lobster Kings

byAlexi Zentner

Paperback | May 6, 2014

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From the internationally acclaimed author of Touch, praised as "an arresting debut" (National Post) and "a haunting, beguiling and beautifully imagined story" (Winnipeg Free Press), comes a powerful family saga steeped in the legends of the ocean.

The Kings family has lived on Loosewood Island for three hundred years, blessed with the bounty of the sea. But for the Kings, this blessing comes with a curse: the loss of every first-born son. Now, Woody Kings, the leader of the island's lobster fishing community and the family patriarch, teeters on the throne, and Cordelia, the oldest of Woody's three daughters, stands to inherit the crown. To do so, however, she must defend her island against meth dealers from the mainland, while navigating sibling rivalry and the vulnerable nature of her own heart when she falls in love with her sternman. Inspired by Shakespeare's King Lear, The Lobster Kings is the story of Cordelia's struggle to maintain her island's way of life in the face of danger from offshore, and the rich, looming, mythical legacy of her family's namesake.
ALEXI ZENTNER's fiction has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Narrative Magazine, Tin House, Glimmer Train, The Southern Review, Orion Magazine and other publications. His short story "Touch" was featured in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2008 where it was chosen by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as a jury favourite. His short story "Trapline" w...
Title:The Lobster KingsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 9.16 × 6.31 × 0.95 inPublished:May 6, 2014Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307362957

ISBN - 13:9780307362957

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from A great summer read. I loved this book -- couldn't put it down. I haven't read The Fisher King, so I can't comment on the previous review and whether or not the reviewer is correct, but I can tell you that this is a highly entertaining book with memorable characters and more than a hint of mystery.
Date published: 2014-05-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from THE LOBSTER KINGS Borrows Heavily from THE FISHER KING by Hayley Kelsey Alexi Zentner's second novel (May 27) is set on fictional Loosewood Island straddling Maine and Canada, revolves around a 300-year-old lobsterman’s family named Kings: Father Woody, eldest daughter Cordelia, and sisters Rena and Carly. Descendants of painter Brumfitt, who, lore has it, married a mermaid, they inherit a family curse that claims the lives of each generation's first-born son as when nine-year-old Scotty is swept overboard. Guilty over her rivalry with Scotty, Cordelia resolves to fill his shoes as captain and lobsterman. She takes charge when nearby James Harbor lobstermen start poaching the Kings's waters and drug smuggling to addict the island's inhabitants. Tough Woody fights back, but at 57 and ill, he only has so much fight left, so Cordelia steps in to avenge the family territory, cutting the enemy's lobster traplines and discovering a dismembered corpse, which culminates in a piratical shoot-out. The author reprises the strongly mythic quality of his first novel in the descriptions of ancestor Brumfitt's paintings that are interspersed with present-day chapters. But the use of myth here is heavy-handed, clunky, and fails to add dimension to the characters' history or the plot or to resonate in any way. Allusions to Cordelia's dalliance with an African-American and to Carly's lesbian partner are painfully obvious set points designed to give the novel "Politically Correct" elements intended to appeal to contemporary readers. The novel reflects a paucity of imagination and felt emotion at every turn: the characters lack complexity and their relationships are based on minor squabbles, which only further erodes any dimensionality. If their fishing rights (hence, livelihoods) are being encroached on, they seem petty squabbling over jewelry instead of strategizing how to get rid of vandals and meth dealers. Presumably the plot revolves around the threats of off-islanders encroaching on island waters and dealing meth, but the author never renders a scene that makes them real to the reader, nor does he provide any evidence that they are, in fact, threats, such as by lost revenue or drug-addled adolescents, so nothing is actually at stake in the novel. Author fails to lay the groundwork for or build to crisis events and instead springs them on the reader so they occur out of a vacuum, then handily dispenses with them in a truncated narrative so they don't advance the plot, build suspense, or add character depth. The scenes are violent, but not climactic. One incident merely follows another with no build-up to them, no rendering of conflict, and no repercussions from them. At each opportunity, he robs the reader of the chance to actually experience the story and characters. The author makes a play for "Literary Greatness" by tying the novel to KING LEAR, but it falls flat largely because his characters and plot are so wide of the Lear theme. Instead, the novel seems to borrow heavily from THE FISHER KING, by Hayley Kelsey, published in 2011. In fact, the similarities, both large and small, are striking: The title, family surname, and storyline (threat to fishing rights; waterman family patriarch resists change, return to island), characters (feisty first-person female narrator, tyrannical patriarch, passive male characters), character relationships (rivalry among three siblings), character development (narrator's guilt for abandoning dreamy younger brother to workplace death; aging patriarch falls ill but resists doctors), setting (island), theme (inheritance of watershed and fishing business, woman tries transcend sexism of physical labor), and literary allusions (Grail Knight). But the richly imagined THE FISHER KING is an infinitely better novel. Not only does it ambitiously address such big themes as overfishing in an era of global trade, who's responsible for a commons in a free market economy, the competing interests of stewardship v. inheritance, and what connotes possession by posing such questions as who "owns" the sea: the public or watermen who work it and know it best? But the author makes the political achingly personal in the deeply felt and generously evoked very real lives of characters trapped by circumstances (sometimes of their own making) as pressure from a punishing summer drought mounts on an island community and a family to pit brother against brother, and father against son while the fate of the precarious watershed waits. The Fisher King In accordance with FTC Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, the reviewer received an ARC free from the publisher unconditionally based on positive or negative review. The opinions expressed are his own. This review is not protected by copyright or DRM and may be shared, reprinted, and reposted.
Date published: 2014-05-30

Editorial Reviews

LONGLISTED 2015 – International DUBLIN Literary Award"So big on legend, rich in style and crowded with the kind of people who simultaneously seduce you and tear at the foundations of your understanding, it makes you want to drop your life, call the movers and buy a one-way ticket to Zentner's universe. The Lobster Kings confirms what Touch already prophesied: Alexi Zentner is one of the greatest literary architects and mythmakers working today." —Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife“The Lobster Kings is a powerhouse of a novel. Alexi Zentner proves himself to be a writer of the first rank with this story of one woman’s determination to carry on her family’s legacy in the face of the encroaching pressures of modernity and the strictures of a patriarchal culture. The bold and endearingly stubborn Cordelia Kings is a protagonist we can root for, flaws and all, as she struggles to reconcile the past with the present.” —Ben Fountain, author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk"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 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." —Stewart O'Nan, author of Last Night at the Lobster and Emily, Alone“Alexi Zentner’s The Lobster Kings is that rare tale that has everything you could possibly want—mystery, mythology, poetry, ACTION and heart. It’s a marvel of a book by a writer working at the height of his literary powers.” —Alison Pick, author of Far to Go “This masterfully written book is many things: a heartbreaking family saga, a myth-enshrouded ghost story, a thickly calloused ode to work and to art—not to mention a pulse-pounding mystery. Alexi Zentner commands both the malevolence and the magnificence of the natural world like no writer I know.” —Michael Christie, author of The Beggar's Garden9780307362957