When Nolan Grey receives news that his father, a once-prominent biologist, has drowned off Leap’s Island, he calls on Elsa, his estranged, older half-sister, to help pick up the pieces. This, despite the fact that it was he and Elsa who broke the family in the first place. The Greys have been avoiding each other for a dozen years.
Elsa and Nolan travel to their father’s field station, a wild and isolated spot off the Gulf Coast. Here, their father’s fatalistic colleagues, the Reversalists, obsessively study the undowny bufflehead, a rare sea duck whose loss of waterproof feathers proves, they say, that evolution is running in reverse and humanity’s best days are behind us.
On an island that is always looking backward, it’s impossible for the siblings to ignore their past. Stuck together in the close quarters of their island stilt-house, and provoked by the absurd antics of the remaining Reversalists, years of family secrecy and blame between Elsa and Nolan threaten to ruin them all over again. As the Greys urgently trek the island to find the so-called Paradise Duck, their father’s final obsession, they begin to fear that they were their father’s first evidence that the future held no hope.
CJ Hauser teaches creative writing and literature at Colgate University. She is the author of the novel The From-Aways and her fiction has appeared in Tin House, Narrative Magazine, TriQuarterly, Esquire, Third Coast, and The Kenyon Review. She holds an MFA in fiction from Brooklyn College and a PhD in Creative Writing from The Florida State University. She lives in Hamilton, New York.
Nadja Spiegelman is the author of I’m Supposed to Protect you from All This and several award-winning children's comics, including Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure. She is the co-editor of Resist!, a magazine of political comics by women, and the online editor of The Paris Review.