Gillis, Meghan. Lungfish. Catapult, 2022.
Reason read: This was a Christmas gift from my sister. I read everything she sends my way.
Have you ever seen a race horse struggle to restrain its awesome power? Or a runner who can easily put the pedal to the metal, but has hold back in an effort to race smart? This is the way I felt reading Lungfish. Deceptively simple passages in incredibly short chapters made me want to speed-read; to buzz through the sentences at a hundred pages a minute. To do that would be to miss the scenery of gorgeous language flashing by. To not slow down and savor the smart language would be to deprive myself of one of the best books of the year. Yes, I know it’s only early 2023. But. But! But, that’s my prediction and I’m sticking with it.
Lungfish oozes mystery. There is a hinting of things. What is wrong with Paul? The use of the word “better” implies there is something worse. You shouldn’t think of the word ‘trickery’ that could at play, yet you do. You do. Is the narrator asking Paul to improve a behavior? Be a better person? Or is it his health? The possibility he could be better at something hangs heavy. Especially when a word like perfunctory is used to describe a kiss between two people in a relationship. Then consider the act of hiding from the law. Questioning what happens when the executor arrives. What is that all about? The narrative does not speak in linear terms, only winding and twisting innuendo, slippery as seaweed newly exposed by the outgoing tide. Early on there is an unexplained sadness that permeates the entire story, the way a thick fog will dampen a wool sweater to a newfound heaviness. You want the fog to lift, the sunshine to come streaming in, and loud laughter to break the silence.
Instead, we as readers circle the plot in a strange swaying dance, like a slow moving game of musical chairs. Only when the song comes to an abrupt halt, we grab for the final sentence and wait for the silence to end so we can read on. Careful not to slip on the seaweed of secrets.
Lines I loved, “He puts his hands on my shoulders, from behind, and I sit like a stone” (p 123). Unmoving. Unfeeling, Cold, Hard. Colorless. These are the words of a stone. Here’s another, “The box contained three sets and I’d used them all, in part because I didn’t trust the way I peed on them” (p 165). O can relate to the permeation of doubt that becomes pervasive.
Playlist: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones.