Review: The Mermaids Singing, by Lisa Carey

The Mermaids Singing
The Mermaids Singing
by Lisa Carey
Harper Perennial, 288 Pages
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When you’re on a road trip having a good book to read is just as important as having cheap auto insurance. I thought I’d packed decent reading material for our recent emergency trip to Iowa (my brother-in-law died of brain cancer on the 17th), but when faced with downtime, none of what I’d packed appealed to me. In fact, it wasn’t until we were on the way home, last Thursday, that I found anything that spoke to me.

We were at a used bookstore (Firehouse Books) in Ames, IA, and Fuzzy was checking out when a paperback on the rack near the door caught my eye. I picked it up, somehow KNOWING it would appeal, and said, “Add this. Buy this for me.” And Fuzzy did.

That night, in a hotel room in Emporia, Kansas, I began to read Lisa Carey’s first novel, The Mermaids Singing. It’s a multigenerational tale of three women, Cliona, Grace (Cliona’s daughter), and Grainne (Grace’s daughter), and their relationships with each other and with the men in their lives. It’s candid and well written, and you can hear the Irish accents in the voices of the Irish characters, and smell the sea when Carey writes about sand and surf.

While this novel is technically not that far from the types of romances that Nora Roberts writes, it’s also a deeper story than even Ms. Roberts tends to pen. It opens with Grace dying of terminal cancer, and the chapters alternate in voice, as each of the women, including young Grainne, get their shot at narration.

What I liked most about The Mermaids Singing is that the characters have growth, but not every problem is solved by story’s end. Carey could easily write a sequel to this, if she felt like it, and it would be a welcome tale, but the book is perfectly satisfying without it.

Goes well with a fisherman’s sweater (preferably ‘borrowed’ from a hunky fisherman) and a mug of strong, hot tea.