Monday, January 25, 2016

"The Lightkeepers"

Abby Geni is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the recipient of an Iowa Fellowship. “Captivity” won first place in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open and was included in The Best American Short Stories 2010; it was also selected for inclusion in New Stories from the Midwest.

She is the author of the novel The Lightkeepers and the story collection The Last Animal.

Geni applied the Page 69 Test to The Lightkeepers and reported the following:
There is violence coming. There is a murder coming. But on page 69 of The Lightkeepers, the worst things have not yet happened. My goal in the first section of the book was to keep the reader intrigued, to fill the story with menace, to bring the characters to life, and, most importantly, to fully capture the strange world they inhabit.

On the Farallon Islands, a wild island chain off the coast of California, it is Shark Season. The characters are biologists. On page 69, Lucy, the bird specialist, has gone Scuba diving on her own, though great white sharks patrol the surf in terrifying numbers. Miranda, the narrator, is in the cabin, waiting for Lucy to return. She muses:
I was frankly astonished that there was diving equipment on the islands at all. It was perilous enough to travel around by boat without venturing beneath the surface. … Each time the door banged in the wind, I glanced up hopefully. Mick was out there, I knew, working the crane to bring Lucy home. It seemed as though he had been gone a long while. Too long.
Meanwhile, as Miranda waits peevishly, the biologists are talking about sharks. This was another goal of mine in this section: to give the reader a portion of the fascinating information I had learned in my research about marine life. I had fun combining data (animal facts) with life-or-death situations (Lucy swimming with sharks).
Galen and Forest continued their discussion in low, insistent voices. Forest was looking even thinner than usual, as willowy as a ballet dancer, with cavernous cheekbones. He and Galen were arguing about the white sharks. I was getting better at following their jargon. The Rat Pack was the group of males responsible for most of the attacks on seals and sea lions. A strip of ocean by Indian Head was their hunting ground. … Some were curious, easily lured to the surface. Some were aggressive, thudding into the [boat’s] side or trying to bite the motor.
Page 69 does what it’s supposed to do, I think. There is danger here, but nothing close to what’s coming. In the meantime, the book intrigues, informs, and bides its time.
Visit Abby Geni's website.

--Marshal Zeringue