Book review: Aquarium

Caitlin, 12, lives alone with her mum Sheri in a subsidised housing complex by Seattle airport, a soulless zone of cargo transports and industrial units. 

David Vann

William Heinemann, €28.50;

ebook, €12.99

Every day her mum drops her off very early at school, then goes off to her grinding job as a docker.

After school, Caitlin must wait till mum’s done and can take her home again. She whiles away the time each day at the local aquarium, moonily studying the fish.

But the past cannot be sealed off like a fish tank, and the appearance of Caitlin’s granddad at the aquarium threatens to shatter their precarious equilibrium. It emerges that Sheri was abandoned by her dad when her own mum fell ill, left alone as a young teenager to care for a chronically dependant, dying woman without any help or support.

She cannot forgive her father; her daughter, on the other hand, just wants a granddad. Families rarely fare well in the works of David Vann, whose own father’s suicide is the subject of his first two books. But the narrative is cool and gripping.


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