In Natalie Bakopoulos’ richly told Scorpionfish, readers step into contemporary Athens with Mira, a Greek American woman who has returned to the city while she grieves her parents’ deaths as well as a dissolving relationship. As we enter the mess of her universe, counterpoints appear from her neighbor, the Captain. The alternating voices of these broken, fragmented people explore how each tries to repair and save the self, and how their personal connections become integral to that process.
As Mira and the Captain get to know each other—sitting together and apart, talking across their balcony walls—the conversation reveals their layers and the ways that each sees the other. The newness of their connection allows them to puzzle through the complexities of their past loves, friendships and familial bonds. Each is navigating the ending of a relationship; each is reevaluating priorities. As we witness this growing friendship, the specificity of place—of the sea, the city and the interior emotional realm—cradles the characters’ attempts to understand what it means to be human and to love.
Bakopoulos’ prose is descriptive, full of images and details, and yet some sentences are so clear and axiomatic that the reader may need to pause and think, recognizing truths they’ve always known. In a certain way, reading Scorpionfish is a rereading, a remarkable recognition of how language can work, how grief and love and loss can be so particular, so meaningful, so universal—and how words can make those resonances propulsive and haunting.