The Oyster Singer
In a community of drifters, misfits and loose souls, Lum Cross found a place and a way of life that has all but disappeared from the rest of the world. He knows, too, that it’s as tenuous as a mayfly in June.
He is the Oyster Singer, with an uncanny ability to sing oysters up out of the deep, unique, perhaps, but practical, which could describe just about everyone in Mud City. Lum is also First Citizen of this collection of shacks on stilts built on the left-behinds of a failed real estate development on the fringes of a saltwater marsh. Across the wide bay is a thriving and increasingly posh resort that’s been called the Hamptons of New Jersey. People are lured there because it’s the now place to be. The Mudders weren’t so much lured as accumulated from various walks and rat races of life, drifting in like bits of flotsam, some staying, some drifting on:
Hughie Draper, once a shark on Wall Street, now a shark catcher with the fastest boat on the bay.
Ging, wanderer, clammer, sometime short-order cook. She has a grown son she’s lost track of, ditto the father. She had no particular purpose in life other than getting along, until she got to Mud City and found Lum.
Lum has sailed four of the seven seas, tracked over half the U.S., and once beat his head against marriage. He is the anchor that holds the place in place but also the resident hotspur. He is slipping into his sixties, not trying to slow the march of time but in no hurry either. He measures people quickly, accepting or rejecting. His credo: “Let it be.” When Ging comes along he finds this hard to do.
So, among other things, this is a love story: Woman finds man; man flees; woman shrugs; man realizes that maybe it could be different this time and he shouldn’t be so hasty but it might be too late; man comes back, carefully; woman hugs him hard so there’ll be no mistake about it.
Also in this episodic novel, cats are trained to dive for fish; an old-time boat-builder holed up in an abandoned fish factory maintains a lost art; a mail-order clergyman preaches math; and when a limbless body bangs into Ging’s place, a search for the perpetrator brings the outside world in to probe the marsh, the backing pinelands, and their lives, and sets the tone for changes to come. Ultimately, as with all coastal property, Mud City attracts developers who see its potential, and the squatters must choose to leave or fight.
All contents copyright by Larry Savadove