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“Terribly moving. A clear-sighted, poignant rumination on loneliness, love, the melancholy of age and of youth—and, in its quiet way, the end of the world.”— China Miéville, author of Perdido Street Station
An utterly original coming-of-age tale, marked by wrenching humor and staggering charisma, about a young woman resisting the savagery of adulthood in a community of the elderly rejecting the promise of youth.
“It’s too hot for most of the clothes I packed to come here, when I thought this would only be for a week or two. My mother kissed me with those purple-brown lips of hers and said, we’ll be back, hold tight.”
Seventeen-year-old Kid doesn’t know where her parents are. They left her with her grandmother Lolly, promising to return soon. That was months ago. Now, Lolly is dead and Kid is alone, stranded ten miles off the coast of New Hampshire on tiny Swan Island. Unable to reach her parents, and with no other relatives to turn to, Kid works for a neighbor, airbrushing the past—digitally retouching family photos and movies—to earn enough money to survive.
Surrounded by the vast ocean, Kid’s temporary home is no ordinary vacation retreat. The island is populated by an idiosyncratic group of elderly separatists who left behind the youth-obsessed mainland—”the Bad Place”—to create their own alternative community. These residents call themselves the Swans. Kid calls them the Wrinklies. Even as Kid tries to be good and quiet and patient, the adolescent’s presence unnerves the Swans, turning some downright hostile. They don’t care if she has nowhere to go, they just want her gone. She is a reminder of all they’ve left behind and are determined to forget.
But Kid isn’t the only problem threatening the insular community. Swan Island is eroding into the rising sea, threatening the Swans’ very existence there. To find a way forward, the Kid must come to terms with the realities of her life and an unknown future that is hers alone to embrace.
Season Butler makes her literary debut with an ambitious work of bold imagination. Tough and tender, compassionate and ferocious, intelligent and provocative, Cygnet is a meditation on death and life, past and future, aging and youth, memory and forgetting, that explores what it means to find acceptance—of things past and those to come.
Season Butler is a writer and artist born in Washington, DC. Season also works as a dramaturg, and as a lecturer in Performance Studies and Creative Writing. An early draft of Cygnet won second place in the 2014 SI Leeds Prize for unpublished fiction by Black and Asian women. She lives and works between London and Berlin.