Survival on an isolated Maine island animates the novel ‘Lungfish’

Meghan Gilliss’s debut novel “Lungfish” dramatically transports the reader to an isolated island, the wind howls and the waves crash as life rages on. Tuck, the novel’s protagonist, becomes a symbol of the sacrifices many women make to protect the people they love the most. With grit, determination and enduring hope, it’s a story that hits hard and requires readers to ask themselves how much they would give to be healed.

After life begins to unravel in this literary fiction, Tuck, her husband Paul, and their young daughter Agnes leave their home in Pittsburgh in exchange for a house on an island in Maine, left vacant by the death of Tuck’s grandmother. They have no rights to the land, as it was left to Tuck’s father who has been missing for years, but with few other options, they decide it’s worth the risk to hide there until they can come up with a better plan.

The reader doesn’t fully understand the frigidity of Tuck and Paul’s marriage until the secret is revealed early in the novel’s 320 pages: Paul is addicted to kratom, a plant extract that mimics opioids. It was slowly draining the family finances, and the money that should have gone to food, clothing and shelter fed Paul’s addiction. And since they don’t live anywhere legally, they don’t qualify for food or housing assistance, leaving Tuck and Agnes at the mercy of whatever Paul brings home from the mainland. One of his supplies? Graham crackers, peanut butter, instant noodles and half a gallon of cheap milk.

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