Publication Date: July 4, 2019
Genre: Literary Fiction
Content Warning: click here
Ducks, Newburyport is a thousand page odyssey that firmly entrenches the reader into the mind of our nameless protagonist who is a stay at home baker, mom of four, and is dealing with the anxieties and stresses of life. The only thing that I knew about this story before going into is that it is told like one long sentence and has only one period. However, the story is broken up every so often by telling a story of a cougar and her cubs. And while these two narratives seem completely arbitrary it was a welcome surprise to see them eventually converge together.
It was fascinating being so throughly into our narrators head and her thought process. She gets stuck on some ideas and then goes off on tangents and plays around with word association. I can’t even begin to imagine what the writing process was for Ellmann since it was, at times, a lot to read. I am someone who has anxiety tendencies and I can also spiral into worst case scenario so I had to put this book down a few times for my own mental health.
However, despite all the tangents and influx of true news stories that were happening at the time of Ellmann’s writing we do get to know our narrator and the things she has gone through and a few times we are present while she is currently dealing with a situation. This book came out in 2019 but I believe it was written in 2017 and the backdrop for a majority of the story is the political and societal climate of that time. But Ellmann did a great job of interweaving all the various elements that comprise this story and did just enough to keep the momentum of the barely there plot going.
This book is for a very specific reader who loves character driven stories and wants to intimately know what the narrator’s thoughts are at all times. I also admire the unique way this story is told and I’m looking forward to reading more from Ellmann in the future. I’ve mentioned numerous times that I enjoy watching author’s play with their craft in different ways, whether through structure or style, and I’m interested to see her past work.