by David Vann
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015
source: borrowed from the library
Summary (from goodreads):
Twelve-year-old Caitlin lives alone with her mother—a docker at the local container port—in subsidized housing next to an airport in Seattle. Each day, while she waits to be picked up after school, Caitlin visits the local aquarium to study the fish. Gazing at the creatures within the watery depths, Caitlin accesses a shimmering universe beyond her own. When she befriends an old man at the tanks one day, who seems as enamored of the fish as she, Caitlin cracks open a dark family secret and propels her once-blissful relationship with her mother toward a precipice of terrifying consequence.
Overall, my thoughts about Aquarium are quite mixed and I've struggled to find a way to coherently express them. A reprise of my "Pick or Pass" review format seemed like the way to go.
Aquarium is a well-written and creative coming of age story. The book itself is aesthetically pleasing, sprinkled with color fish photographs and fun fish facts. The page numbers and headers are a pretty watery blue. I'm glad I had a hardcover edition from the library... the physical beauty would have been lost on my kindle
Although no quotation marks appear in the book, there were many quotable passages.
"The worst part of childhood is not knowing that bad things pass, that time passes. A terrible moment in childhood hovers with a kind of eternity, unbearable. My mother's anger extending infinitely, a rage we'd never escape. "And yet...
Even though I gravitate toward 'dysfunctional family' stories, the way this child was treated by her mother just made me angry. So angry, in fact, that I could not enjoy the novel. Nor could I put it down. I read the book in under twenty four hours.
I still wonder whether there is ultimately any hope for these people? Probably not.
Plus, the lack of quotation marks really annoyed me.
How do you rate a creative, well-written novel that you didn't enjoy reading but couldn't put down? I have no idea.
Pick up Aquarium if:
- you crave a creative, well-written novel
- a coming-of-age story combined with family dysfunction sounds appealing
- you appreciate an aesthetically pleasing book
Pass on Aquarium if:
- a lack of quotation marks bothers you
- your tolerance for the mistreatment of children is low
- you think frequent references to fish might become tiresome
What do you think? Will you pick or pass?