A family in a remote lighthouse comes under the spell of an unusual woman and her even more unusual daughter.
The Borya brothers are young when the five of them, and their impoverished parents, move from their shack near a fishing village to take over an isolated lighthouse. Eventually, Osip, a middle brother, becomes the lighthouse keeper; Sevastian-Benedikt, the oldest, hunts and traps to keep them alive. As time passes and a tragedy reduces their number, Sevastian takes up with Noé, a strange woman who lives in a small cabin apart from the rest of the family. Though Noé is Sevastian’s woman and bears him a number of children who run wild through the rugged landscape where they live, Osip is nevertheless obsessed with her, and the two begin sleeping together. Noé rarely speaks, and she has little to do with the children she births. She knows the land and the animals intimately: She can skin whales, handle jellyfish. Noé and Sevastian’s daughter, Mie, has a similar talent, able to cast her mind into the bodies of other creatures (and sometimes inanimate objects) to fuse her consciousness with animals and explore the world. At 12, Mie now wants to understand humans better and turns her attention toward what seems most natural: sex. This is Wilhelmy’s third novel, though the first to be translated into English, and she is a meticulous recorder of the dramatic wilderness of what seems to be coastal Quebec. But her desire to show readers how, left to their own devices, humans will behave in the amoral ways that nature produces in the animal kingdom seems to betray a deep cynicism. And Wilhelmy’s detached look at incest and child sexuality may leave many readers cold.
Lovely writing wrapped around an often unpalatable core.