"Dazzling...[a] quirky, raucous, and bewitching family saga", high praise by Sara Gruen for Erika Swyler's debut novel Book of Speculation, and rightly so. I simply couldn't put it down.
After his younger sister Enola runs off to read tarot cards for a traveling carnival, cash-strapped librarian Simon Watson lives alone in the decrepit family home that he watches nervously as it slowly crumbles toward the Long Island Sound. An old bound journal arrives at his doorstep one late June, almost at the same time his sister returns, restless and secretive. Fragile and water damaged, the book is a log from the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports strange and magical things, including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. Since then, generations of "mermaids" in Simon's family have drowned, always on July 24, including his mother.
As his friend Alice looks on with alarm, Simon becomes increasingly convinced that Enola will be the next victim of the family curse, and the answer must lie in the book.
"Debut author Swyler creates a melancholy world with hints of magic at the edges... Fans of historical novels, especially titles with circus themes or touched with a hint of the supernatural such as Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, Katharine Dunn's Geek Love, or Katharine Howe's The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, won't want to leave this festival."
The Mermaid's Child by Jo Baker - the acclaimed author of Longbourn brings us the magical story of a young girl in search of her mother...who her father believes just might be a mermaid. Malin Reed, always odd and awkward never quite fits in. When her father dies, she takes to the road in search of her mother. Apprenticed to a series of strange and wonderful characters, Malin embarks on a grueling journey that crosses oceans and continents - she even disguises herself as a boy in order to get a position on a slaving ship. Misadventures, rescues (by an eccentric librarian), icebergs and pirates, Malin's journey eventually comes to a fitting end.
This pungent early novel, only now available in the U.S, (is) "beautifully written and hauntingly strange,...a remarkable piece of storytelling, and an utterly unique work of fantasy..."
The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble, set in a mythical Pennsylvania mountain tells the story of three foundlings taken in by Auntie, a village wise woman. When Clara realizes that her sister Maren, is slowly but surely turning into a mermaid, she and best friend O'Neill set out to take Maren to a new home in the sea. Adventure finds them when a traveling show kidnaps them all, and Clara must overcome her inner doubts about who she really is in order to save them all.
"Like all good fairy tales, this one touches on deeper themes of sibling rivalry, jealousy, insecurity, and questions of identity...Noble's treatment of the mermaid theme is fresh and original, and even her minor characters are beautifully depicted."
Like mermaids? You might also enjoy Mermaid : A twist on the classic tale by Carolyn Turgeon, and The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford.