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Reading Group Guide

  1. Book ImageThe Lobster Kings: A Novel

    Alexi Zentner

    A mythical family saga steeped in the legends of the sea, The Lobster Kings is a "powerhouse of a novel" (Ben Fountain).

Discussion Questions

  1. Can The Lobster Kings be considered a coming-of-age story for Cordelia? How does she grow into her many roles—as a daughter, a sister, a lobsterwoman, and a leader—over the course of the novel?
  2. Cordelia’s relationship with her father is complex. At what point does her concern for Woody start to complicate her respect for and awe of him? When does she start to see him as a man rather than a legend? Are there points in the novel where you think she should trust him more or less than she does? Do you blame her for his death?
  3. What is the source of Cordelia’s jealousy of her sisters and their jealousy of her? Is theirs a commonplace tension between siblings, or is it complicated and exaggerated by the mythical nature of the legacy that only one of them can inherit?
  4. How do we see Cordelia’s relationship with the curse of Brumfitt Kings evolve over the course of the novel, as she loses one family member after another?
  5. Describe the characters of Rena and Carly. How is each sister’s relationship to their father unique? How do the women’s relationships to one another evolve?
  6. What are some of the echoes of King Lear in The Lobster Kings? Why and how has the author made use of Shakespeare’s play? In what ways has he chosen to diverge from it?
  7. Describe Cordelia’s relationship with Kenny Treat. Would you consider The Lobster Kings to be primarily a love story? Why or why not?
  8. Each in a slightly different way, Cordelia, her sister Carly, and Carly’s partner Stephanie subvert Loosewood Island traditions regarding a woman’s proper role in a lobster fishing community. Pinpoint when and how each of these characters opens the eyes of the islanders and helps the community to evolve.
  9. Discuss the relationships between some of Brumfitt’s paintings and their corresponding scenes in the novel. How do the parallels between the past and the present play out?
  10. Are we meant to believe, in the end, in the truth of the legend of Brumfitt Kings? Does Cordelia believe in it? Finally, does it matter whether she believes in the legend, or is it enough that she has internalized its power?
  11. Do you have any family myths or potent family histories? How have they affected how you see yourself or how you live your life?

About Alexi Zentner

Alexi Zentner is the author of The Lobster Kings and Touch, which was published in a dozen countries. His fiction has been featured in The Atlantic and Tin House. He lives in Ithaca, New York, with his family.

Books by Alexi Zentner

  1. Book CoverThe Lobster Kings: A Novel

    A mythical family saga steeped in the legends of the sea, The Lobster Kings is a "powerhouse of a novel" (Ben Fountain).More

  2. Book CoverTouch

    "A breathtaking debut . . . filled with ghosts and demons who lurk in the Canadian north woods." —Andrew Abrahams, PeopleMore