Published: September 4, 2012
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (BYR)
296 pages, hardcover
GR Summary: Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.
Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.
THIS IS THE MERMAID BOOK I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR.
I can't even tell you guys. Listen, I've seen The Little Mermaid. I've sung "Part of Your World." And I know Ursula was crazy evil. But that was 1989, people. And that, to date, was the darkest mermaid story I've ever encountered (besides the original Hans Christian Andersen version.) So many mermaid books I've read since then have been fluff. And I'm okay with this, but I'm looking for it's grimy counterpart that shows the evil part of being an under the sea dweller. My search ends HERE.
As if you couldn't tell by the title, this is monstrous. Sure, that pretty mermaid is sending mixed signals, but these are vicious creatures bound to the sea by an absolutely grotesque sea witch (more on her, later.) There are two stories within Monstrous Beauty and, as Pastor McKee says within, "Everything es entertwined." You, Scottish pastor, are SO RIGHT.
The chapters within tell the story of Syrenka, mermaid, and Hester, mortal. Syrenka's story set in the late 1800s, Hester's in the present day. And they both meet and fall in love with the same guy. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE, you ask? I won't tell you that, because it will spoil the mind-bendy, constantly guessing and hypothesizing when you read the book. I'm not that cruel. It's half the fun. And the love story? It's beautiful. Tragic and scary and gruesome--YES, there is gore--but at its core, there is beauty.
And there are ghosts. And a long, drawn out curse. And some seriously disturbing sacrificial rituals. Honestly, can this book appeal to the paranormal fangirl in me ANY MORE? Throw in an evil, evil villain and my heart is forever promised to Elizabeth Fama.
Just my luck, the villain is terrifying. Noo'kas makes Ursula look like the baby octopus in Finding Nemo. Fama does such a ridiculously perfect job of describing Noo'kas and her underwater grotto (with minions!) that the words disintegrated from the pages and all I saw was the imagery. It was like a movie. The fluidity, the movement, the desolation, the GRIME... it was all right there in front of my eyes in technicolor.
This book is not for the faint of heart. But if you're looking for THAT mermaid book. That one that isn't all underwater BFFs and pink fins and purple shell bras, this is for you. If you can handle the seriously morbid. This book is dark, but so well done and so beautiful. No superficialities here, it's all deep. And everything IS intertwined.