About The Mermaid's Daughter• Paperback: 448 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 7, 2017)
A modern-day expansion of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, this unforgettable debut novel weaves a spellbinding tale of magic and the power of love as a descendent of the original mermaid fights the terrible price of saving herself from a curse that has affected generations of women in her family.
Kathleen has always been dramatic. She suffers from the bizarre malady of experiencing stabbing pain in her feet. On her sixteenth birthday, she woke screaming from the sensation that her tongue had been cut out. No doctor can find a medical explanation for her pain, and even the most powerful drugs have proven useless. Only the touch of seawater can ease her pain, and just temporarily at that.
Now Kathleen is a twenty-five-year-old opera student in Boston and shows immense promise as a soprano. Her girlfriend Harry, a mezzo in the same program, worries endlessly about Kathleen's phantom pain and obsession with the sea. Kathleen's mother and grandmother both committed suicide as young women, and Harry worries they suffered from the same symptoms. When Kathleen suffers yet another dangerous breakdown, Harry convinces Kathleen to visit her hometown in Ireland to learn more about her family history.
In Ireland, they discover that the mystery—and the tragedy—of Kathleen’s family history is far older and stranger than they could have imagined. Kathleen’s fate seems sealed, and the only way out is a terrible choice between a mermaid’s two sirens—the sea, and her lover. But both choices mean death…
Haunting and lyrical, The Mermaid’s Daughter asks—how far we will go for those we love? And can the transformative power of music overcome a magic that has prevailed for generations?
About Ann ClaycombAnn Claycomb’s fiction has been published in American Short Fiction, Zahir, Fiction Weekly, Brevity, Hot Metal Bridge, The Evansville Review, Title Goes Here, and other publications. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has an MFA in fiction from West Virginia University.
For those of you who've followed me a long time, you know how I love fairytales. This retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid is a cross between the classic and Disney's animated musical. As I read the book, I kept hearing Ariel from the movie practice her vocal scales because the characters in the book are studying opera. But unlike Ariel, they wouldn't willingly agree to give-up their voices! This book is much darker and morbid than I anticipated. Kathleen's family history is tragic, and she suffers terribly from her afflictions. Poor Harry is beside herself with worry for much of the novel.
The book is very creative. Claycomb does an amazing job retelling a classic story with a modern twist. I liked Harry's analytical mind and how she thought that writing down Kathleen's story could somehow help her (think analyzing a story in English 101). Harry and Robin (Kathleen's father) believe that writing an opera for Kathleen will help her formulate a solution for her plight. I also like how it's told from multiple points of view: Harry's in "Aria for Mezzo Soprano" chapters, Robin's in "Composer's Notes" chapters, and Kathleen's in "Aria for Soprano" chapters. There is a fourth point of view in the book: the sea witches'. I wasn't a huge fan of their backstory told in flashback. I might have preferred a separate book for them, maybe a prequel.
My favorite thing about the book is Ann Claycomb's voice. I think she's a wonderful storyteller, and I hope that she updates many more fairytales in the future. There might even be a hint at the end of The Mermaid's Daughter about what's next, and if so, there will be a sequel with Harry writing another opera based on a fairytale. Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part!
Until next time...