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.
Dramatically transports the reader to an isolated island, the wind whipping and the waves crashing as life rages. Tuck, the novel’s female protagonist, becomes symbolic of the sacrifices many women make to protect the people they love most. With grit, determination, and perpetual hope, it’s a story that hits hard and requires readers to ask themselves how much they’d give to make themselves whole ... Gillis’ writing is visceral and even harsh ... The book is gripping, descriptive, and full of poignant revelations of both the rawness of nature and of humanity. Tuck herself is a force, an embodiment of the ebb and flow of life. At times she is fully consumed by her tasks; at other times she's detached in a way that causes the reader to ache with loneliness. Her resilience is palpable, and mirrors that of the island as she navigates circumstances that would break anyone. As she tries to control the fate of her family in the midst of many things beyond her control, the reader never really knows if she’ll make it out alive. Until the final pages, it is unclear whether or not she can weather the storm. It’s riveting.
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.