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Fish House Envy
on October 18, 2012
I feel like gushing, letting the clichés unleash in a flood of unholy praise. Using "unleash" like that? Cliché?
This was a great book. I loved it. First, the setting is novel. As a city girl who (tragically, inevitably) lives in the desert, I found myself wide-eyed and dazzled by Peter Geye's snowy wilderness in the Midwest. Boats! Apothecaries! People named Hosea and Odd! A fish house! What's a fish house?
But it's the story, which is ultimately about survivors. People who make it. Though there is a life-threatening bear attack, I'm talking about other kinds of survival: enduring, persevering, and overcoming personal and historical legacies, the human-centric kind--crossing oceans in search of a new life, getting nursed by quacks or fleeing brothels, suffering from the weight of your lineage or lack of one. Some people go on; others do not. Some people live well; others flounder in their past. I found this book rich in such musings.
I was also jealous when I read it. I want to do this! I want to write intricate prose that sounds like a lullaby, plays in the snow, and weaves history together! Geye does that, you know! The story follows multiple historical narrative threads, and puts them all together (and it's not confusing at all). I was jealous of the complexity and the breadth of the narrative. I had a wave of anxiety when I read this book: I want to be taken seriously like people are going to take this book seriously.
But that's just me: jealous fool.
At any rate, read it. Cliché-time: it's rich, original, refreshing, riveting! I may have to do a little investigation into this fish house-business. Peter Geye, the working title of my next book is SAPPHO EATS CATFISH. Though it's been that way for a while, think of the fish-element in there as a teeny, tiny tribute to your wonderful book. Even if there are no catfish in it.