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.
Rukeyser’s assured, elegant prose brings colour and outline to the great outdoors, and in Alaska, that is great with a capital G ... Having so few characters helps Rukeyser create a taut atmosphere, where the bosses – Maureen in particular – watch over their employees to make sure they’re working hard enough ... Mira is the right narrator for this story, sharp and observant, but unable to effect much change because of her age ... The holidaymakers come and go, exploiting the landscape for their own needs. Time resets and the guesthouse experience begins all over again, neatly capturing the artificiality of the hospitality world. Less successful structurally are Mira’s frequent shifts into the future to relate various characters’ fates – a style perfected by Muriel Spark. In Seaplane, however, these flash forwards work to undermine the suspense and narrative tension that Rukeyser has so carefully constructed in the present-day action at the lodge. It answers, too early, that pivotal question: what will be lost? ... If moving a character to a foreign world in order to bring about a transformation is a time-worn staple of fiction writers, Rukeyser takes that old trick and flies her reader off to a brave new world.
... It’s a painfully recognisable adolescent yearning that’s captured well in Rebecca Rukeyser’s quirky, wry debut ... Miles from any sort of civilisation, the scene is set for a spiral into disaster — which Mira relates, from the perspective of some years’ distance, with a deftly juggled mix of mercilessly sharp character judgment and gentle compassion for each person’s failings. But mainly Rukeyser lets Mira’s solipsistic wranglings with her sexual desires take centre stage — this is not a novel for anyone who demands lots of plot, but definitely one for readers who enjoy the sort of dive into dysfunction championed by Ottessa Moshfegh.
Rukeyser’s writing is spare and deliberate as, from a murky present, adult Mira looks back on this now-crystallized teenage summer with a kind of awe. Lodge guests came and went, weather threatened and broke, and things that once seemed impossible became not so—and vice versa.