Saturday, August 12, 2017


This REMARKABLE novel (ISBN 978-1250055637) by Erika Swyler is going to be the TALK OF THE CHAPTER MEETINGS for some time to come.  I think I can promise you that.  It's a multi-generation EPIC OF PISCATORIAL LOVE that runs from shortly after the American Revolution to right about now.  (So it's much longer and more complex than, say, Blackwater by Michael McDowell.)  To "fit the story in a mermaid's purse" for you, a librarian who can hold his breath underwater for 11 minutes -- give or take -- comes into receipt of a book that has his grandmother's name written in the back.  When he starts reading, he starts learning the FAMILY SECRETS.  

What I want you ladies to notice as you read is the featherless-biped attitude toward what is alternately called a mermaid, a руса́лка ("rusalka") or a water sprite.  THEY JUST CAN'T MAKE UP THEIR MINDS whether to idolize her or be angry at her; kill her or marry her; scrape her off their shoes and leave or have children with her.  And what does the mermaid make of all this upping and downing?  What is she going through?  THEY DON'T EVEN ASK.  And when a character "drowns herself," they're just flummoxed.  They were so busy whispering behind her back or worshipping at her feet -- or both -- that they NEVER SAW IT COMING.

In a way, this is reassuring.  There are several recruiting operatives in this story, and it's crystal clear that no matter what else is going on, THEIR SECRETS ARE SAFE.  I'm thrilled that all but one manages to GET HER MAN (as they say in the RCMP) and reproduce successfully.  By the end of the story one starts to see just how many of those seeds have been planted, and how far they have been spread.  PRETTY BRACING STUFF.  

It's also VERY nice to read a book that gives the ancient operatives they call Horseshoe Crabs the respect they deserve.  Not a lot of understanding, of course, but the RESPECT is there.  

Read it.  NOW.  That's an order.



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