The Seaplane on Final Approach: A Novel

The Seaplane on Final Approach: A Novel

by Rebecca Rukeyser
The Seaplane on Final Approach: A Novel

The Seaplane on Final Approach: A Novel

by Rebecca Rukeyser

Hardcover

$27.00
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Overview

A TIME Best Book of the Summer • One of The Week's Best Novels of 2022 • A lusty young woman seeks out experience on a remote Alaskan homestead in this erotic and darkly humorous novel that "perfectly telegraphs the suspended animation of tourist-trap life within an eerie life-changing season, the gravity of which will only be felt decades later" (Rachel Yoder, author of Nightbitch).

"Humor, insight and just the right amount of raunch."—Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House​

"Sexy and dark and strange and absolutely perfect."—Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House ​

Tourists arrive all summer, by boat or seaplane, at Stu and Maureen Jenkins’s Lavender Island Wilderness Lodge in the Kodiak Archipelago, expecting adventure. But the spontaneity of their authentic Alaskan wilderness experience is meticulously scripted, except when real danger rears its head. Stu and Maureen’s lodge is failing, as is their marriage.

Mira has been hired for the season as the lodge’s baker and housekeeper. But she’s also busy gleefully nursing twin obsessions: building a working theory of what constitutes “sleaze” and pursuing a young fisherman she deems the embodiment of all things deliciously sleazy. Her plans become more perverse and elaborate, even as life on Lavender Island starts to unravel.

By midseason, it becomes clear that Stu, the jovial, predatory patriarch of the lodge, has turned his sexual attentions to another young employee. As the mood of the lodge spirals into chaos, the inhabitants realize just how isolated Lavender Island really is.

The Seaplane on Final Approach brilliantly illuminates the mirage-thin line between the artificial and the feral. In this daring and psychologically razor-sharp debut, Rukeyser’s characters tear aside the facade of good manners to reveal all of our deepest needs and naked desires.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385547604
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/07/2022
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 154,412
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

REBECCA RUKEYSER is the recipient of the inaugural Berlin Senate grant for non-German literature. Her fiction has appeared in such publications as ZYZZYVA, The Massachusetts Review, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She earned her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and teaches fiction writing at Bard College Berlin.



Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

 

The name Lavender Island Wilderness Lodge was honest, for the most part. The nearest neighbors were eight nautical miles away, the nearest Native village twenty nautical miles, the nearest town with a streetlight fifty. It was a lodge. It was on an island—one without roads, electricity, or any power other than that supplied by the generator. The staff wasn’t allowed to use the satellite phone, except in the case of emergencies. But there was no lavender in Alaska; what grew best on the slopes of Lavender Island was fireweed.

 

I appreciated this lie. Lavender was a cultivated flower, in the way that gloves and small spoons were cultivated. Lavender Island sounded like a place that understood, even as it hunched in the middle of nowhere, that nature was a bear at the end of the garden.

 

The owner, Maureen Jenkins, had a practiced laugh and a practiced jauntiness: she insisted on being called “Maureen.” Her hands, as she untied the mooring lines, coiled the rope, and steered the boat from the harbor, were clever. I believed that under her watchful eye I would be molded into a truly excellent baker.

 

Because that was going to be my job, Maureen explained. I was to be something of a domestic jack-­of-­all-­trades, but she’d really hired me because of my enthusiasm when it came to baking. She told me that I would have a few definite tasks: cookies were essential for packed lunches, because people crave sugar at high latitudes. Pie was essential for dessert, because people needed to taste those fresh Alaskan berries. And bread! We needed fresh bread with fresh salmon.

 

She encouraged me to do fun things in my off-­hours, like walk down the beach and hunt octopuses by luring them from their holes with syringes full of bleach. But life on a homestead was, Maureen reminded me, her eyes never leaving the flat water of the sea lane, more work than play. The guests needed continual attention.

 

 

It took the better part of four hours to navigate out from the town of Kodiak to Lavender Island. The journey was longer when the weather was inclement. But there was really no such thing as bad weather in Alaska, said Maureen, only bad clothing. However, it was true that days like today, with the water reflecting a high, starched sky, were the very best. Maureen turned from the wheel, pointing out a flotilla of sea otters, a whale breaching, a chartreuse green slope scattered with blooming lupine.

 

“It’s a bluebird day, Mira,” she said. “Perfect welcome weather for you.”

 

Maureen, knee steadying the wheel, filled a thermos lid with coffee and handed it to me. When the Wilderness Lodge guests came in for breakfast, she explained, my job was to keep the coffeepot full, and to serve up the platters of pancakes and the bowls of eggs. In the evening, I’d fill the wineglasses and make sure dessert was plated even before the dinner was over. I would wear black-­and-­white-­striped chef’s pants. I would be quiet and bustling.

 

When I introduced the meals, Maureen said, I should tell the guests, “Tonight Chef has prepared for you . . . ,” and then, whenever possible, throw in the word “Alaskan.” It was impossible to overuse the adjective. The fish were Alaskan. The nettles in the salad grew native on Kodiak, Alaska’s own Emerald Isle. We grew rhubarb in our Alaskan garden.

 

 

There were two girls jumping and waving on the beach of Lavender Island Wilderness Lodge. Maureen smiled as she anchored and tied up to a smaller aluminum skiff. The girls were the size of wedding cake toppers at this distance, with the same pleasant blurred faces.

 

“Polly and Erin,” said Maureen. “I think you’ll all hit it off—you all just graduated high school, and you all have the same sparkle.” I hadn’t graduated. I had flunked out, but I didn’t correct Maureen.

 

Polly and Erin’s voices rose up, reflecting cleanly across the water. “Welcome to Lavender Island,” they sang, to the tune of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” “Welcome to Lavender Island, welcome to Lavender Island,” and there they dissolved. They had practiced the first part of their welcome, but not the second. They couldn’t say “And so say all of us,” because there were only two of them. It was true that somewhere, in the gray clapboard buildings nestled in the alders, there were two more.

 

I helped Maureen unpack into the aluminum skiff and watched as she motored to shore. It was only a few hundred yards, but it was enough to hear the roar of the skiff recede and echo back to me from the mountain. As the motor on the skiff cut out, there was the sound of laughter. The word “Hi!” bobbled out to me.

 

In the brambles high above the Wilderness Lodge, I saw the haunches and triangular head of a bear. It was a surprisingly jolly sight: piggy snout, round ears, the movement of a seal in an aquarium. The only unsettling thing about the bear was its fur, which was the pale color of dog shit.

 

Then Polly and Maureen were back in the skiff, coming toward me. Polly smiled, with her two dimples. “Mira! You’re here!” she said, and I said, “I’m here!” When I looked back at the hillside, the bear was gone.

 

“I saw a bear,” I told Maureen.

 

“The Kodiak Archipelago is famous for its bears,” she said. “It’s the real-­deal wilderness out here, the kind of place that really molds you.”

 

On the beach, Erin took me right into a tight hug. She was covered in auburn freckles and wore an oversized Les Misérables t-shirt. Polly was terribly pretty. Her cheeks seemed to be so full of cheek that they shone. She was small, with small feet. Erin’s large feet were pointed outward, and she had a scarecrow grace.

 

I went to grab my duffel, but Erin wouldn’t hear of it. I had just arrived, she could take it. She hoisted it and placed a box on top of it. There was glee in her movements; she was happy to exert.

 

Maureen smiled, and Polly and I took up the lead.

 

“She’s like that,” said Polly. “She’s super-­strong. And you packed light!”

 

“Did you know her before?” I asked.

 

“Oh yes,” said Polly. “We’ve known each other since sixth grade.”

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