Friday, May 24, 2013

Book Review: The Mermaid of Brooklyn

Jenny Lipkin is the mother of two young girls and struggling to get through each day, weighted down by post-partum depression and the many demands of her daughters. When her husband disappears after saying he's going to the store, she reaches her wit's end and makes a decision that changes her life forever. When a new friend rescues her from this decision, she also manages to change Jenny's life in ways she never thought possible, allowing her to see success, love, motherhood and relationships in a new light.

Melissa Amster:
The Mermaid of Brooklyn is Amy Shearn's second novel and it definitely shows. Her writing is strong and polished throughout. The dialogue is realistic and even caustic at times. Jenny doesn't mince words, but I wish she had used less of the "G" word that I'm so uncomfortable reading in novels or even using in real life. The descriptions are fantastic, making me feel like I'm right there, in the moment. I could feel the summer heat on a sticky 90 degree day and smell the various baby scents, barbecues, etc. I could even hear everyone's voice in my head as I was reading it. Everything was easy to visualize, as well. However, there was such an abundance of description that it weighed the story down at times. The many pages of introspection added to this weight. Once the story picked up some steam, it moved along nicely.

Jenny's new friend sounded like a Jewish grandmother at times, calling her "bubbeleh" and saying that Jenny didn't know from hardship. While I loved how she helped Jenny embolden herself, I also didn't agree with something Jenny did under her influence. There was a point in the novel where Amy Shearn could have added in a really cool twist, given how surreal the story was already turning out. However, she didn't and the story stayed on its natural course. Even so, I liked that she tried to stay realistic aside from the one surreal aspect. In the meantime, there were some aspects I really enjoyed as Jenny started coming into her own. I don't want to spoil anything though. Her older daughter reminded me of my kids and it was nice to see that I'm not the only mom who gets frustrated and doesn't always know how to handle a tantrum that gets out of control. I liked realistic aspects such as this one.

While The Mermaid of Brooklyn definitely fits into the chick lit genre, this has a different feel from the novels to which I usually tend to flock. It's very well written and worth checking out, but I wouldn't put it in the same category as a "beach read."

Marlene Engel:
Something I learned early in life is that you can never judge a book by its cover. That couldn’t be more true than with this book. At first glance one might think that this would be a light, fluffy read. I saw the mermaid cloud on the cover and my mind automatically made me think "This is going to be a cute book, like The Little Mermaid." This book, and especially the mermaid, couldn’t be further from the one depicted in The Little Mermaid. Most of us hear the word mermaid and think of a beautiful aquatic creature that’s part human and part fish. Usually with long, flowing hair and a beautiful voice. The mermaid in this book is much more dark and is referred to as a "rusalka." For those who aren’t familiar, a rusalka is a female ghost or mermaid like demon that lives in the water. In Slavic mythology, rusalka were fish-women who lived at the bottom of rivers. In the middle of the night, they would walk out to the bank and dance in meadows. If they saw handsome men, they would fascinate them with songs and dancing, mesmerize them, then lead them away to the river floor to their death.

The book is based around Jenny, a mother to two young daughters whose having a difficult time raising the children on her own. She is married; her husband called one night on his way home from work saying he was stopping at the store, but never came home. Although I have never dealt with Jenny’s exact circumstances, I can relate to raising two young children on my own. I was once a single mom and know the struggles of being at your wit’s end and just wishing you had someone to share the burden with.

The Mermaid of Brooklyn is a raw look at motherhood at the brink of a breakdown. Although it’s a fairly dark story, it has its humorous parts as well. I enjoyed Jenny and her mother-in-law’s characters. I felt they were very relatable. The mermaid, or rusalka, gave the book a mysterious feel and made it unlike any book I’ve ever read. Although I don’t tend to read dark books, I found this one to be interesting. It’s not a book for everyone, but if you’re looking for a twist to the usual chick lit novel, this may be the one for you. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to others.

Marlene Engel is a stay at home mom who runs a home daycare. She lives in Clifton Park, New York with her husband and three year-old daughter. She also has three older boys who live away from home while attending college. She is an adoptive/foster parent and an advocate for the special needs population. In her spare time she enjoys reading and getting together with her book club.

Thanks to BookSparks PR and Touchstone for the books in exchange for an honest review.

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