An Ohio woman thinks. A lot.
Thrusting a 1,000 page book on a reader usually evokes a certain response. A slight raise of the eyebrows. Gentle turn down of the lips. A shifting of the shoulders as the heart rate increases.
But really, there are 1,000 page novels and then there are 1,000 page novels. In the former, each and every one of those pages is felt, turning the book into a depressing slog usually only undertaken by precocious teenagers and overworked English majors. However, the latter whizzes by, using up each of its pages to create and shape a world so engrossing that the time spent reading feels like a reward.
Lucy Ellmann has written the latter—and what’s more, she’s done it with a book mostly comprised of one sentence. A lot has been made of her stream-of-consciousness narrative that spans the vast majority of those pages, occasionally broken up by vignettes about a lioness. Yes, it’s salient as to the structure, but it’s perhaps the least important aspect that makes Ellmann’s work tick.
Instead, the world and the reward are the unnamed narrator herself. Worried, vulnerable, bogged down with too much information, and yet ridiculously funny and tender. She’s fully realized, something incredibly important for a story that takes place almost entirely in her mind. She teases out bits, rarely coming out directly to describe her history, instead relying on a steady stream of tangents and asides to get where she’s going. Along the way, she drops her focus to everything from Donald Trump and gun control to Meryl Streep and movie musicals to pie baking.
Ducks, Newburyport is a frenetic, challenging, and mesmerizing monologue that’s, ultimately, heavily rewarding.
Title: Ducks, Newburyport
Author: Lucy Ellmann
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Classification: General Fiction
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.