Being the mother of a two-year-old and a four-month-old is difficult enough. It’s even harder when you have a husband who works long hours in a failing family business and has a gambling problem. But things get even worse if that husband suddenly disappears and you’re left on your own. That’s what happens to Jenny in Amy Shearn’s novel The Mermaid of Brooklyn.
At first Jenny is so sleep-deprived her husband’s desertion barely registers. She just stumbles from chore to chore and sleep to sleep, and spends a lot of her waking time in the park with her girls and her friend Laura.
But one day the whole situation comes to a crisis and that’s when a miraculous thing happens. Jenny gains the help of a mermaid, who comes to share her body. But this is not a Disney mermaid. This one is full of vigor and common sense as well as earthiness and lust. With her help, Jenny is able to rediscover her life, find her talents, and reconnect with her children. Everything changes.
But what happens when Jenny and the mermaid disagree? And what if her husband Harry comes home?
Shearn has such a natural writing style and such a powerful understanding of the stresses of motherhood and marriage that you are sucked into Jenny’s world of sleep deprivation, worry, and desperate love. What Jenny learns, with and without the help of the mermaid, about learning to be your true self and about being stronger than you think you can be, about the quiet pleasures as well as the problems that come with small children, all ring true and will resonate with anyone who has been a mom.
Ultimately, the mermaid adds humor and interest to the book but it is the realism of Shearn’s writing about the New York neighborhood where Jenny lives and her children and her neighbors and friends that make this book so hard to put down. You will love and care about Jenny and her children and you will probably recognize people you know in the characters around her no matter where you happen to live.
Shearn reveals in the interview in the back of the book that many of the details of Jenny’s story were taken from her own family lore, and that just emphisizes that despite the modern New York setting of the book, the issues Jenny faces are timeless.
The Mermaid of Brooklyn is a joy to read. It is highly recommended for all of the moms of any age.