The Seas by Samantha Hunt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Jude is in love with something watery
My father told me I am a mermaid.
Therefore Jude must be in love with me.
But the above logic is faulty. Lots of things besides me are watery. Alcohol is watery. Water is watery.”
The unnamed narrator believes she’s a mermaid, and her fantasies increase as she tries to capture the love of an Iraq War veteran while finding signs within the wet footprints she believes belongs to her father who disappeared at sea years before. “The Seas” by Samantha Hunt paints a portrait of a 19-year-old woman who’s not quite the same after losing her father but lives in a town always in mourning mode due to its proximity to the ocean.
Her father would tell her she was a mermaid, so her reasoning strengthens as she falls for Jude, a veteran dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder in his 30s. Their connection is strong but faulty as in she feels like Jude should be in love with her though Jude is in his own world. The woman’s mother is also in a depression because of the yearslong disappearance of her husband coupled with miscarriages from the past. The woman’s grandfather focuses on breaking down words in the dictionary since he used to be in the printing industry with his long-lost wife. The heartbreaks while living in a sleepy seaside town affected by people being lost at sea enhances the story more.
The poetic rhythm reminds me of Francesca Lia Block’s style in a way. I first heard about this book in one of Block’s writing groups, where I started my own mermaid novel. The mermaid mythology can be taken to so many different levels, and I enjoyed this rendition that didn’t quite go into detail with the stereotypical features such as the siren voice and scaly fin but showed how the myth can affect a woman’s mind and change how she perceives her problems. The novel does the first-person voice well as in you get to know the character, sense the character’s personality without knowing her name.
Overall, it’s an engaging story with writing that matches its essence, but the melancholy doesn’t overpower.
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