After recently reading and enjoying The Garden of Small Delights I was craving another good read. In my last blog I wrote that I had been in a book drought, having struck out over the summer with more titles than I can count. Now I’ve thoroughly enjoyed two good reads in a row.
The book I’ve just finished is The Mermaid’s Secret by Katie Schickel. Once again I was drawn to the book because of the cover. A bright yellow mermaid-adorned surfboard, floating in gorgeous jewel-toned, blue-green water. I couldn’t wait to dive in!
Two things should be revealed here about the author of this post: 1.) My background is in graphic art, so more often than not the book I choose will be based on (and judged by!) it’s cover. 2.) Although there are many west-coast surfers in my family tree I will never, ever partake in the sport. I was traumatized by the movie “Jaws” as a child. It took long enough for me to work up the courage to get my 12 year old self back into my family’s backyard swimming pool, so after 42 years I still haven’t mustered up the courage to ride the ocean waves while dressed in a wetsuit, remarkably resembling a seal. I’m very comfortable watching from the beach with my toes firmly planted in the sand. I believe I could outrun a land shark.
That being said, I love to live vicariously through the surfers I watch, and I was thrilled at the thought of riding a wave through the main character in this book, Jess. The author does a beautiful job of introducing you to Jess and her family within the first few chapters of the book, then it’s time to explore what lies under the surface.
From the book jacket: “Jess Creary feels like she’s drowning on dry land. She’s still reeling from the death of Kay, her older sister, killed two years ago in a “boating accident.” Her mother has disappeared and her father is on her case to get a real job. The only bright spots in her life are surfing off their island home in Maine and Matthew, the handsome captain of the fishing boat where she works flipping burgers.
On her twenty-third birthday, Jess catches the perfect wave - a wave that will transform her into a mermaid. Under the sea, a startlingly beautiful dark place, Jess is reborn as a confident, powerful predator with superhuman strength. Facing down a great white shark, hunting prey, and rescuing a baby whale trapped in a net - Jess is finally someone to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, back on land, her relationship with Captain Matthew heats up and so does her quest to hold Kay’s ex-boyfriend, wealthy summer resident Trip Sinclair, responsible for her death.
When the strange old Passamaquoddy woman who owns the local curiosities shop tells Jess of the legend of Ne’Hwas, the mermaid, Jess discovers that she has thirty days to choose between land and sea, legs and fins, her humanity and her freedom. Who could reject the freedom of the sea? Yet the ocean is a dark, untamed, lonely place. Will Jess choose family and love, forgiveness and truth, or will she be seduced by the wild call of the sparkling sea forever?
A perfect beach read, The Mermaid’s Secret is a captivating story about magic, transformation, and truth from the author of Housewitch, one of Booklist’s Top 10 Women’s Fiction of the Year.”
Whew! That’s a lot to take in! I’ll admit that when I read this synopsis I thought that “this could be really good or really bad”. I immediately liked the thought of Jess being a surfer and living on an island, catching a perfect wave on her birthday and rescuing a baby whale, but as soon as I read the name Trip Sinclair as the wealthy summer resident I choked on the ridiculous name as I thought of Snidely Whiplash, archenemy of Dudley Do-Right, Caledon “Cal” Hockley from the blockbuster movie, Titanic, or even stunner Dash Riprock, from that old classic television comedy, The Beverly Hillbillies. I suspected that the storyline involving Sinclair would be overdone, and I have to say that if there’s one thing I didn’t like about this book it was that Trip was a predictable villian. But enough said about that guy!
What I did very much enjoy about the book was the writer’s style. This story intrigued me from the get-go. Obviously you have to be willing to travel outside of what is proven fact to accept that Jess could transform into a mermaid, but the author captures your attention and holds it as you travel with Jess beneath the sea, so much so that at times I felt the terror that Jess experiences as she feels vibrations (cue the shark!) under the water. Just as intense are experiences with other characters she encounters in the dark waters of the ocean. Because the author has you really liking and rooting for Jess from the beginning, every incident, whether on land or sea, had me wanting to read more to ensure that Jess would be ok.
Although at times I was tempted to call my surfer cousins to translate some of the highly detailed wave language that went right over my head (see what I did there?), I could glean enough from the descriptions to feel like, as I’d hoped I would, I was riding the waves right along with Jess.
This book is, as described, a great summer read, and who doesn’t want summer to last a little longer? At times lovely, at times quite sad, The Mermaid’s Secret is a touching, sometimes raw look at family, loss, courage and the adventure of living.
I cannot end this review without a warning to the reader: do NOT read ahead, do NOT read the final page until it’s presented to you at the end of the story. Ride the waves with Jess, instead. Enjoy the journey. Live vicariously. Like a beautiful pearl discovered only after opening the clamshell, the end of this story is a gift to be treasured.