The Mermaid of Brooklyn

Thoughts tmobbyas The Mermaid of Brooklyn by Amy Shearn, A Touchstone Book Published by Simon & Schuster 2013, 339 pages

For THE BOOKIES, my local book club

First Sentence:  “Before I died the first time, my husband left me broke and alone with our two tiny children and it made me feel very depressed, etc.”

What’s it ABOUT:  This is a story of a young mother, abandoned and sleep-deprived, who either slips off a bridge or attempts suicide and has her body invaded by the soul of a mermaid. With the help of her new friend-inside-her-head, she finds the strength she never knew she had to thrive and not just get by. But then the mermaid leaves her and her husband comes home and all is well with the world. I guess.

That’s what I got out of it anyway.

What’s GOOD:  It has its funny comic moments. I think I chuckled a few times.

What’s NOT so good:  The teaser in the opening sentence sets up an expectation but the subsequent pages never build up any drama; eventually I started to get bored and wanted the story to ‘get on with it already’. The mermaid’s abrupt departure is not satisfying. When someone at club stated that our poor young mother was a whiner, she was defended with a right to whine since she was exhausted and was taking care of too little exhausting kids and had no help. I suppose I would whine, too, so I’ll concede.

FINAL thoughts: The club was split;  no one expressed over-the-top loving it but some did think it an enjoyable nice read;  a few of us either didn’t finish, didn’t like the character or was plain not impressed. We actually had an interesting discussion debating the book; we spent more time talking about this book than most.

The mermaid is also rather ambiguous – was she ‘real’?  Or … not? Interestingly enough — I *did* think this part was kind of cool — our protagonist studied Slavic folklore and Russian literature and this story element was quite effective and felt authentic. I didn’t realize mermaids were of Slavic origin.

“I lived for that twilight time when Betty snuggled up and prompted me, “Tell the fishy.” Then my oft-mocked master’s degree in Russian folklore (it sounded good at the time) got its moment to shine. “Yes,” I told Betty, working a comb through a post-bath snarl. “Once there was a fish-woman who lived at the bottom of the river. Every night she came out and danced in the meadow by the light of the moon.”

As another goodreads reviewer noted, “this book has an audience that will enjoy it immensely; I’m just not in that audience.” (thanks Jessica!)

Rating:  Two slices of pie.

RANUNCULUS – p.332 – noun. A temperate plant of a genus that includes the buttercups and water crowfoots, typically having yellow or white bowl-shaped flowers and lobed or toothedleaves. • Genus Ranunculus, family Ranunculaceae: many species, including several garden ornamentals.

“We sat at her dining room table, where a mason jar of sunny ranunculus held court amid a gathering of puzzle pieces. I pressed my hands to the side of the jar, hoping the goodness of the flowers could heal me.”

The next book up for club: The Witch of Little Italy twolibysp by Suzanne Palmieri. Anyone read it? (not due until August)


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13 thoughts on “The Mermaid of Brooklyn

  1. Sounded good from the first two lines, but seems like it’s false advertisement. Totally see where you’re coming from and although i didn’t read the book, I would probably feel the same. Great post and glad the book at least sparked discussion.

  2. Hmm, it actually sounds interesting to me, although I trust you when you say it was one of those, “Just get on with it,” books. I would probably be theorizing that the mermaid was something she used as a defense mechanism to help her through and then once she didn’t need to pretend she’d been mentally inhabited by a mermaid, she let go of the fantasy. That’s just a guess from what you said. Haven’t read it, nor the next book in line for your book group.

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