Seagulls swoop and dive, crying in the salty air. The waves of Nushagak Bay crash on sandbars and rocky shores. Machines rattle the warehouses on the cannery side of the village “where the beach flattened and the boardwalks grew tall.”
So many sounds; so many stories. Yet as I page through Mia Heavener’s 2020 novel Under Nushagak Bluff under the long shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the novel’s subtle and steady investigation of silence that most captivates me.
Under Nushagak Bluff follows the descendants of a character named Marulia, the only one in her bloodline to survive an early 20th century epidemic. Marulia relives the loss every day of her life. Yet she passes only fragments of the experience on to her daughter, Anne Girl.