The Mermaid of Brooklyn, Amy Shearn

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Jenny Lipkin, former up-and-coming magazine editor and current stressed-out mother of two, is struggling. With two demanding children, she is adjusting to life as an average mother, drinking coffee in the playground and complaining about breastfeeding, sleepless nights and how to get the buggy on the subway. And then, one summer evening, her husband Harry goes out to buy cigarettes and doesn’t return. Jenny reaches breaking point. She is contemplating ending it all, but when she falls off the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River, she finds a surprising ally – and a magical way to rethink her ideas about success, motherhood and relationships. But confronting her inner demons is no easy task . .

Publisher:   Pan Books, August 2013

Reviewer:   Nadine Matheson

Jenny Lipkin is the mother of two, Harry; her husband has gone out for cigarettes and has not returned home.  She is trapped in a cramped apartment in the middle of a sweltering summer in Brooklyn, New York and she is suicidal.  One afternoon, on the hottest part of the day Jenny takes a walk to the Brooklyn Bridge.  We never actually know if she jumps from the bridge or loses her balance and ‘accidentally falls’ into the Hudson,  but what we do know is that Jenny is dying.   Then she is saved by the Rusulka otherwise known as the ‘Mermaid of Brooklyn.

Who is the mermaid? –is she Jenny’s inner voice, her conscience, or she is the spirit of a woman who is saving Jenny both from death and in life?   By saving Jenny, the mermaid inhabits her body and becomes the voice that speaks out whilst Jenny is battling her in-laws, her children, abandonment and herself.

Where it seems that walking through a fog of despair, doubt and mournful for her life before marriage and children, the mermaid is reckless, spontaneous and shows  Jenny not only how to live but also more importantly how to survive. However, there comes a time in the book where Jenny herself realises that even the mermaid has her own agenda.

This is a story about sacrifice, losing yourself, regaining who you once were and revealing whom you really are to others. If you can get past the confusion over the book’s cover, you will find that the author, Amy Shearn, has succeeded in creating a multitude of characters with very distinctive voices.  This is a well-written and enjoyable book that will resonate with the reader and you will find yourself asking the question ‘what would I do if I had a second chance?’



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