“The Lobster Kings” by Alexi Zentner is a tale of island life that is part mythology and part love story. It takes place on fictional Loosewood Island, located near a place actually occupied by Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, a few miles off Maine’s Washington County coast.

Unlike Grand Manan, Loosewood is claimed by both the United States and Canada and its residents choose which nation’s laws to obey.

Cordelia Kings is a lobsterwoman, the eldest of three daughters and the only one to take up the family business. Her father, Woody Kings, is still lobstering, and is the person to whom the rest of Loosewood looks for leadership and advice.

Cordelia is the heir apparent. With help from her father, she fights with outsiders trying to poach on Loosewood fishing territory, faces drug dealers on the island and deals with sibling rivalry.

The Kings’ history in Loosewood goes back to Brumfitt Kings, who arrived around 1720. He fished, painted and wrote.

The second largest economic driver on Loosewood – after lobstering – is tourists coming to walk around and sometimes paint the scenes that Brumfitt recreated in his paintings.


Brumfitt features prominently in island lore, which claims that he took his wife from the sea and that she returned to the sea at the end of her life.

The family myth says the Kings descendants were promised a bounty from the ocean, with the price that the first-born son in every generation would be lost to the sea.

When Cordelia’s brother, Scotty, is killed in a fishing accident, she is left to carry on the family legacy, remaining jealous of her brother into her adulthood.

Her father had groomed Scotty to be a lobsterman, although it was Cordelia who loved the work.

Cordelia strives to prove her worthiness to her father in the face of threats from off the island and in the midst of a tumultuous romantic relationship with her boat’s sternman.

Each situation hinders, at least temporarily, her efforts to cement her position as the island’s next leader.


When Woody is seriously injured, Cordelia takes charge to keep not only her family, but the entire island, from falling apart.

Mixed throughout the book are short chapters describing Brumfitt’s paintings and his life according to journals. They punctuate the plot, giving this 21st-century tale ties to the island’s deep past.

Zentner makes many allusions to King Lear, and “The Lobster Kings” is a saga in the Shakespearian vein – with big battles against enemies from away and closer to home, as Cordelia fights for fishing grounds and to keep the myths of the past from controlling life in the present.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. Contact him at 767-2297 or at: tomatwell@me.com.

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