Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Guest Review: Amy Shearn - The Mermaid of Brooklyn

Reviewed by Louise Wykes

Jenny Lipkin, former up-and-coming magazine editor and current stressed-out mother of two, is struggling. With two demanding children, she is adjusting to life as an average mother, drinking coffee in the playground and complaining about breastfeeding, sleepless nights and how to get the buggy on the subway.

And then, one summer evening, her husband Harry goes out to buy cigarettes and doesn’t return.

Jenny reaches breaking point.  She is contemplating ending it all, but when she falls off the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River, she finds a surpriing ally - and a magical way to rethink her ideas about success, motherhood and relationships.  But confronting her inner demons is no easy task...

Amazon links: Kindle or Paperback

Firstly I must apologise to the author and publisher for the delay in replying this review book which was originally sent to me last year so I'm extremely grateful to Louise for offering to review it for the blog.   

I haven’t read anything previously by this author so had no idea what to expect but I was drawn in by the tagline “Sometimes a mother needs to come up for air” as being a mum to a very active toddler, I am always interested to read stories about other mums and how they cope (or not) with such a massive life change. 

We are introduced to Jenny, the main character who before she became pregnant and mum to two little girls, was a magazine editor living a very successful life in Brooklyn, New York.  Since her two girls have come along, she is struggling hard to cope with the mundane reality that is her life now which isn’t helped by being constantly sleep deprived.  Then one day her husband, Harry leaves the apartment to buy cigarettes and doesn’t return.  Initially Jenny doesn’t worry too much as she reveals Harry has done this before as he is a secret gambler and has in the past gone on trips to Las Vegas and usually returns either triumphant or crestfallen depending on his luck.   

However it doesn’t look like that Harry has any intention of returning soon as he sends Jenny a postcard to say that he’s ok and alive but just needs to “figure some things out.”  This leaves Jenny in an awful predicament where she is not really widowed but not really married either and now has to cope on her own with two children and no income from Harry.  At the end of her tether, Jenny goes to Brooklyn Bridge to end it all but when in the river, she meets a mermaid or a rusalka who it would seem has decided to save Jenny’s life by inhabiting her body. 

This book was quite odd in that it didn’t seem to be purely one thing or another.  The reality of Jenny’s situation of struggling to adjust to a new life as a parent seemed quite separate to the unrealistic aspect of the mermaid saving Jenny’s life and helping her to rebuild her life afterwards.  The writing was excellent- I felt the claustrophobia of Jenny struggling to even walk sometimes in the heat of the Brooklyn summer and then to have her body taken over by the mermaid is both terrifying and exciting. 

I really enjoyed this book as it explored how Jenny tried to cope with struggles we all face and how life, unlike a fairytale, doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending but it moves on and how the power to change can be inside of you all along – even if you need a mermaid to show you how to do it.  This book has humour, tragedy and a lovely whimsical element that is ultimately uplifting. 

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