Sunday, February 22, 2015
Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet
In the first section of the novel, Chip comes up with all kinds of adventurous destinations for their upcoming honeymoon, and Deb vetoes each one in a kindly manner. For example, the "Peaks of the Himalayas" voyage, "with visits to monasteries, meditations and nosebleeds from the lack of oxygen up there. [...] The inner peace a monk projects, combined with never having sex, I don't know if that attitude is really honeymoon material. [...] I'll take a pass on that serenity, I said to Chip, I'm just not in the mood for it."
At the resort, everything gets crazy after mermaids are spotted. I'm going to blank out a bit in the next passage in order to avoid spoilers, while still giving you a sense of Deb's voice and the action of the plot. She's approached at the door of her cabana and asked to accompany some people to a meeting.
"I found myself jostled and forced away from ____, surrounded by a wall of men.
At that point I considered making a scene, even yelling/screaming. But that's where my personality got in the way, my personality that, especially as I got older, I hadn't worried about so much. I'm not a screamer, never have been, and it turned out this situation was no exception to the rule. The idea of screaming seemed foolish. Here we were in a Caribbean resort. What was the worst that could happen? Then I caught sight of ____ and thought of ____, but still the scream stuck in my throat."
The characters are all larger-than-life, yet so believable at the same time. Millet adeptly gets at the truth of how we obsess about ourselves and how we relate to other people.
Mermaids in Paradise is a dark and funny story about greed and altruism: human nature at its worst and best. Millet's style is exhilarating and fresh. I adored this book.
Readalikes with comic voice: Come, Thou Tortoise (Jessica Grant); The Blondes (Emily Schultz); and The Death of Bees (Lisa O'Donnell). Also, Beauty Queens (Libba Bray) - for the satire and island adventure.