“Jenny Lipkin is worn out... and stressed out. No one in the house is sleeping thanks to Rose, the new baby, and husband Harry has been working super late hours thanks to slow business. One night, Harry calls to say he's stopping for cigarettes on his way home and disappears. Harry's mother is...”see full review » see other reviews »
Didn’t Like It
“Jenny is a mother to two children. She is married to Harry. Jenny awakes one morning to learn that Harry has not returned home from work. Jenny calls him but gets his voice message. As time passes Jenny realizes that Harry is not returning home. Jenny is left to care for the children alone or so...”see full review » see other reviews »
“Jenny Lipkin is worn out... and stressed out. No one in the house is sleeping thanks to Rose, the new baby, and husband Harry has been working super late hours thanks to slow business. One night, Harry calls to say he's stopping for cigarettes on his way home and disappears. Harry's mother is ready to call the police (who inform her that there's nothing they can do unless foul play is suspected) but Jenny suspects her hubs could be on a gambling bender - something he's been known to do. In a desperate moment, Jenny plans to launch herself off the Brooklyn Bridge. Fortunately, she changes her mind. Unfortunately, it's too late. But Jenny is saved by a rusalka - a mermaid - who helps her to find her way.
I knew I was going to love this book from the very first page. Amy Shearn has a great style and voice! (I'd include a passage but I think I'd be attempting to include the whole book!) On the very first page Jenny talks about her husband leaving and wonders why he didn't take the dog with him while also berating him mentally for not changing the hall lightbulb before he left.
In addition to the snarky components (that I'm always a sucker for - definitely says something about me), Shearn has a magical way of turning a phrase. Her writing is quite pretty (not purple!) and wonderfully illustrates Jenny's life and surroundings.
A lot of THE MERMAID OF BROOKLYN is about family and motherhood. I don't have kids, but Jenny's narration as a whole is something I can personally sympathize with even when she talks babies. I laughed out loud more than once at her very real portrayal of mommyhood (all the dirty and stinky parts that folks sometimes gloss over). And I truly felt for her when she was at her worst.
Shearn combines great humor and emotion in her latest, making THE MERMAID OF BROOKLYN a hilarious and heartfelt read - definitely recommended for both moms and non-moms (or not-yet-moms).”
“Susan T said: 5 stars
Keep calm and mermaid on
The tag line for Amy Shearn’s sophomore novel, The Mermaid of Brooklyn, reads “Sometimes all you need in life is a fabulous pair of shoes—and a little help from a mermaid.” Now, if you ask me, that sounds like some kind of light chick-lit novel—and there’s nothing wrong with light chick-lit. But that’s not what you’ll find in these pages. That’s selling Amy Shearn’s novel way too short.
First, it’s not chick-lit at all. If you must classify, put this one down as women’s fiction, but with a sharply-observed, Perotta-esque take on the village-within-a-city that is Park Slope, Brooklyn. It’s the story of Jenny Lipkin, the overwhelmed mother of an infant and a toddler. In the novel’s opening pages, her husband Harry calls to tell her he’s stopping to pick up cigarettes on his way home. He never arrives. Days pass, and no one has heard from Harry, no one can reach him. This would, of course, be upsetting under any circumstances, but this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Harry has issues of his own. But he’s never stayed away this long before…
Jenny is an appealing protagonist, appealing in her imperfection. She’s not extraordinarily beautiful, clever, or together. Quite the contrary, she was barely getting through her days when she had her husband’s support. Now the struggle really begins. The kids, the bills, the home: “This was not one of those ‘Oh, ha, sorry it’s such a mess’ moments. It was dangerously messy. It was call-child-services-doubt-the-mental-health-of-the-mother messy. It was TLC-reality-programming messy. We cohabited with dust bunnies I knew by name…” That’s a funny passage, and there is a good amount of humor and some real wit within the text, but there’s also a fair amount of darkness and desperation. I suspect that more than a few women will relate to Jenny’s feelings of bone-deep exhaustion and inadequacy.
Where, you may be asking, is the mermaid in all this? Where indeed? There’s no mermaid in sight until more than a quarter of the novel has passed. And this nameless entity is not, perhaps, the mermaid you’re expecting. She’s no fairytale friend. This mermaid of Brooklyn is a creature of Slavic myth, a rusalka. I’m a connoisseur of mermaid legends and lore, and this was a new one on me. Per Wikipedia, “In Slavic mythology, a rusalka is a female ghost, water nymph, succubus, or mermaid-like demon that dwelt in a waterway.” I’ll leave you to discover how Jenny encounters her, and the exact nature of their relationship. It’s not entirely negative, as the above might lead one to believe, but it’s not exactly positive either. Jenny muses:
“I was starting to realize the rusalka wasn’t the best person to listen to. What did I know about her? Who WAS she, this new self of mine, this recently arrived Siamese twin? It was beginning to strike me, in moments of sickening dread, that I might be just another sailor coiled in her hair, seduced by her promises of impossible passions, believing I was being buoyed up as she slowly strengthened her squeeze, dragging me down to the ocean floor.”
Notwithstanding an amusing tendency to pepper her dialogue with Yiddish, there’s an opaqueness to the rusalka that leaves readers a lot of room for conjecture as to her nature. But despite this supernatural element, this is an unusually realistic look at one woman’s struggle to find her way through neighborhood politics, temptation, depression, and family life. I’m neither married nor a mother, but I related tremendously to Jenny, and I cared about her struggles.
The writing in The Mermaid of Brooklyn is terrific. I don’t use phrases like “chick-lit” or “women’s fiction” in a pejorative manner, but rather to describe genres of fiction. Still, those genres will give certain readers expectations as to literary quality. Whatever those expectations are, the depth of this book will surpass them. Shearn uses language in clever and observant ways. “We’d been in the park all morning, and I was Pompeiied in a gritty paste of apple juice, dirt, and sandbox.” Or, as two mothers express their exhaustion: “It was an exchange we shared about thirty times a day, like songbirds trading musical phrases.”
This was my introduction to Ms. Shearn’s work. I came to it with expectations that weren’t met at all. Fortunately, they were significantly exceeded. The Mermaid of Brooklyn is a whole lot more than a book about a fabulous pair of shoes.”
“Jenny is a mother to two children. She is married to Harry. Jenny awakes one morning to learn that Harry has not returned home from work. Jenny calls him but gets his voice message. As time passes Jenny realizes that Harry is not returning home. Jenny is left to care for the children alone or so she thinks. Jenny receives some help in the form of a mermaid.
I liked the premise of this book. It sounded like a fun read. Unfortunately it way missed the mark for me. I struggled to get as far as I did with this book. I held on as long as I could but just did not have the will power to read on and finish this book. This is because I found Jenny to be too whinny and she seemed like she did not have a back bone. It was like Jenny could not operate without her husband. Which I could understand the falling apart for a few if your husband left you however when you have little children you just have to pick yourself back up right away and deal the best you can for them. In addition, I never really got to know Harry so I never felt sorry for Jenny that he left her.
Even the mermaid was telling Jenny to act like an adult. Jenny did get her act together but by then I was so turned off by Jenny that I did not care anymore. This book floundered for me.