Tuck is slow to understand the circumstances that have driven her family to an uninhabited island off the coast of Maine, the former home of her deceased grandmother where she once spent her childhood summers. Squatting there now, she must care for her spirited young daughter and scrape together enough money to leave before winter arrives—or before they are found out. Relying on the island for sustenance and answers, Tuck lives moment-by-moment through the absurdity, beauty, paranoia, and hunger that shoots through her life, as her husband struggles to detox.
This lyrical novel...often feels like a fairy tale ... Gilliss’s language is an elemental force ... The prose exhibits as little structure as Tuck’s life. Gilliss’s short, artfully titled chapters...sometimes slip effortlessly into something like poetry ... Lungfish reads with a slowly building terror. This way of life is not sustainable ... The book belongs to what could be called a new category of literature — survival parenting ... Only Tuck doesn’t have the tools to claw her way to safer ground, leaving the reader confounded.
Told in lyrical, first-person fragments as lush, brutal, and self-contained as the island itself, the novel’s remote setting occasions an extended study of isolation ... The novel’s lyricism evinces what Virginia Tufte calls 'syntactic symbolism,' in which a sentence’s syntax performs its meaning. Frequently, Tuck’s syntax suggests that she is reluctant to reveal some truths, even to herself. Meaning unfurls slowly like the fronds of a fern.
Gilliss’ debut novel paints an aching picture of life at the fringes of American society, capturing a pain that is nearly tearing the family apart. The hallucinatory and poetic prose, including gorgeous descriptions of the island’s natural beauty, feels right for a woman who is consumed with hunger not only for food but also for a semblance of normalcy and love.