Maritime Mythology Comes Alive in Alexi Zentner’s “The Lobster Kings”
Alexi Zentner’s The Lobster King adds a touch of magical realism in a lonely fishing village ruled by an aging patriarch with a fiery daughter. Somewhat based off of the Shakespearean play King Lear, Cordelia is the eldest daughter of Woody Kings, who is the reigning patriarch of the lonely fishing village Loosewood Island in New England. Even though the Kings family has been prosperous, there’s a curse on them: each generation’s fated to watch their first-born sons die. As the elderly ruler becomes more and more absent-minded, it’s up to his daughter to keep her beloved island out of the reach of the meth dealers who threaten to destroy the peace and keep her two younger sisters from making mischief, all while attempting to not suffer the same fate as her literary namesake.
Thanks to Zentner’s haunting narrative, Loosewood Island and its maritime mythology come alive in vibrant colors. Readers will learn to love the lonely place as much as Cordelia does. They will also weep with the heroine as the turf war and encroaching meth dealers shatter the peace and scatter dead bodies in the waters that were once teaming with lobsters.
By adding a supernatural ancestor—the Kings family is rumored to be the descendent of a fisherman and a Selkie—Zentner expertly weaves in a sense of magical realism while still capturing what life is like in fishing villages today to create a haunting tale that even Shakespeare himself would be proud of.