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The Lobster Kings: A Novel

The Lobster Kings: A Novel

4.2 6
by Alexi Zentner

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A mythical family saga steeped in the legends of the sea, The Lobster Kings is a "powerhouse of a novel" (Ben Fountain).The Kings family has lived on Loosewood Island for three hundred years. 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,


A mythical family saga steeped in the legends of the sea, The Lobster Kings is a "powerhouse of a novel" (Ben Fountain).The Kings family has lived on Loosewood Island for three hundred years. 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 from 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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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)
Stewart O'Nan
“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.”
Kirkus Reviews
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.
Autumn Markus - New York Journal of Books
“The Lobster Kings is well worth a summer read; in fact, it's likely the reader will want to devour it again and again.”
Boston Globe
“Steeped in familial legend and dusted with maritime magic…Zentner keeps a firm grip on his tale.”
Téa Obreht
“Alexi Zentner is one of the greatest literary architects and mythmakers working today.”
Ben Fountain
“A powerhouse of a novel. Alexi Zentner proves himself to be a writer of the first rank.”
Library Journal
★ 05/15/2014
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

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Alexi Zentner is the author of Touch, which was published in a dozen countries. His fiction has been featured in The Atlantic and Tin House. He lives in Ithaca, New York, with his family.

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The Lobster Kings 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Kiribear13 More than 1 year ago
The Lobster Kings is written by Alexi Zentner is a fictional semi-fantastical story about Loosewood Island located between Canada and the US. The book revolves around the history of the Kings family. Cordelia Kings is the daughter of Woody Kings, and comes from a long line of Kings which can trace their ancestry back to the original Lobster fisher of the islands Brumfitt Kings three hundred years earlier. Cordelia’s only wish is to follow in her father’s footsteps, living on the sea which calls to her and fishing for lobster. The Kings live with both a gift and a curse. Brumfit was promised by the sea to always have the bounty of the sea and never want for lobsters. In return the sea will claim the first born son of every Kings family. With so much of her history wrapped up in myth, Cordelia never quite knows the line between truth and fiction. Woody, her father believes every tale of their family ancestry whole- heartedly. He delights in telling them to his family. The story begins with Cordelia as a pre-teen and the oldest of three girls when her little brother is born. Instantly Cordelia as her father’s favorite feels a jealousy in having to share her father, the sea and her inheritance with her little brother who does not feel the call to the sea as she does. The Lobster Kings is a tumultuous tale of both the beauty and the tragedy which is being a part of the sea. There is a roller coaster of emotions as we follow through the story with Cordelia as a young girl and as she enters into adulthood and is finding he own as a hardworking 30 year old with her own lobster boat. Cordelia's challenges range from her fight for inheritance of the sea to keeping meth out of her town. My only complaint was that in the beginning of the book, I wasn’t sure that the narration was still following Cordelia in youth between chapters. However, as the story went on, I found myself so vested into the characters that I felt joy and sorrow with them and even had tears in my eyes in several places. I give this book 5/5 stars. I loved the connection of grandiose description in relation to the Brumfitt paintings. I love the way that myth was interwoven with life in a way that it couldn’t be true… and yet… it just might be. I also loved the way that Zentner created realistic characters, realistic struggle and real growth in the story. I highly recommend this story for anyone interested in the sea, fishing, woman empowering, mythology, fantasy, fiction, adventure, suspense, family, etc. *I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful characters and an exciting story.
MERT99 More than 1 year ago
It was a good novel overall. A little slow at times but the last third of the book pulls you in so you want to keep reading. I would recommend this book as a general read. I was drawn to it because I like anything that brings me into the world of off shore fishing adventures. The book was more than that though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Borrows Heavily from THE FISHER KING by Hayley Kelsey. Zentner's second novel, set on Maine’s fictional Loosewood Island, revolves around a 300-year-old lobsterman’s family, the Kings: Father Woody, eldest daughter Cordelia, and sisters Rena and Carly. Descended from painter Brumfitt, they’re cursed to lose each generation’s first-born son, as occurs when nine-year-old Scotty is swept overboard. Guilty, Cordelia resolves to compensate as an ace lobsterman and avenges off-islanders poaching their waters and drug smuggling by cutting the enemy’s traplines and engaging in a piratical shoot-out.   The novel is uninspired by imagination or emotion. The characters and relationships lack complexity. Author fails to lay groundwork for or build to crises; instead, he springs them on the reader, then handily dispenses with them so they don’t advance the plot, build suspense, or add character depth. Merely violent descriptions, they’re not climactic.  The plot revolves around encroaching on island waters and meth dealing, but the author fails to render a scene that makes them real or provide any evidence that they are, in fact, threats, such as lost revenue or drug-addled adolescents, so nothing is actually at stake. One incident merely follows another with no build-up, no conflict, and no repercussions.  The author’s try for “Literary Greatness” with KING LEAR falls flat. Instead, the novel seems to borrow heavily from THE FISHER KING, by Hayley Kelsey. The similarities, both large and small, are striking: 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 by ambitiously addressing big themes: overfishing in an era of global trade, who’s responsible for a commons in a free market economy, competing interests of stewardship v. inheritance, and what connotes possession: who “owns” the sea? The author makes the political personal in the deeply felt and evoked lives of characters as pressure from a punishing summer drought mounts on an island community and family to pit brother against brother, and father against son while the fate of the precarious watershed waits.  The Fisher King Reviewer received an ARC free from the publisher unconditionally based on positive or negative review, and the opinions are his own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
L b,? Pppstone,irving