The Mermaids of Lake Michigan(Website, Twitter)
Published by Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing on February 14, 2017
Genres: Adult, Coming of Age, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Magical Realism, Mermaids
Source: TLC Book Tours
Amazon • Book Depository • Goodreads
I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Elise Faulkner is more at home in the waters of her beloved Lake Michigan than on land where her beauty queen mom is always on her back about her lack of a social life; her sister is dating the boy of her dreams; her favorite penpal–the one who wrote about mermaids in Ghana–has gotten married and ended their correspondence; and no one’s allowed to talk about her glamorous great-grandmother, the deep-sea wreck diver. Elise is biding her time with books until she can flee. But then crazy Chiara Hanover pops into her life, as does Miguel, a mysterious carnival worker whose dark future has been predicted by a gypsy.
“A lyrical, compelling coming-of-age story with magical elements.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Elise Faulkner drew me into her head and heart so subtly, yet with such force, that by the end I was cheering her on. Suzanne Kamata has woven an honest, aching coming-of-age story that will speak to women everywhere.” ?Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, author of The Art of Floating and Thirsty
“Suzanne Kamata has written a novel of great charm and depth, with a bit of magical realism laced with humor. Elise, its engaging narrator opens her arms and her heart to life’s complexity, including family secrets and escapades with a magnificent new bestie–the irrepressible Chiara. When an unlikely romance unfolds with a mysterious drifter/musician, Kamata steers us expertly into darker waters. A jewel of a novel, set on the shores of Lake Michigan with Kamata’s signature compassion for all of its characters.” — Margaret Willey, author of A Summer of Silk Moths
“The Mermaids of Lake Michigan is a luminous coming-of-age story about a teen struggling against social norms and her own family legacy to find her way. Elise’s journey is hardly the stuff of fairy tales, as she ends up far from home, and far from the self she meant to be. Raw, real and even a bit magical.” — Kristina Riggle, author of The Life You’ve Imagined and Vivian in Red
“Suzanne Kamata’s new novel, The Mermaids of Lake Michigan, is a beautiful story about a teenage girl who must learn to balance her idealism and belief in mermaids with the harsh realities of growing up and trying to find people to love and trust. A page-turner set in the unstable years of the 1970s, I devoured it in one sitting. It brought back memories of my own adolescence and took me beyond, in that way all good novels do, into the wonderings of circumstance and the choices we would make if faced with hard decisions. Suitable for teens and adults alike, this novel will teach readers to believe in magic even in the face of tragedy.” — Cassie Premo Steele, author of Beautiful Waters
The first thing that I noticed about Suzanne Kamata’s The Mermaids of Lake Michigan was the cover. It’s so hauntingly beautiful, and the woman’s underwater face with the sunlight softly streaming through the water fits in perfectly with the title of the book. When I dove into this book on my Kindle, I certainly didn’t expect to find a book so engrossing that I devoured the entire thing in a few hours, getting to know Elise Faulkner both as a little girl in the stifling small Michigan town and as a senior in high school on the cusp of adulthood and freedom.
Elise would rather stay inside and read books than make friends in her neighborhood, even though her younger sister is a popular social butterfly. Caught up in the fantasy life that she’s built for herself in the letters that she’s written to her various pen pals around the world over the years, Elise is satisfied with this life on paper–until she’s forced to meet her elderly neighbor’s granddaughter Chiara. Once exotic and wild Chiara has entered Elise’s life, Elise can’t help but wonder about everything that she has been missing: from friends, to parties, to bars, to boys. On one such adventure with Chiara to the annual Coast Guard carnival, Elise meets Miguel, a gypsy carnival worker who proclaims that his mother has foreseen that they’re meant to be. Elise is smitten by the handsome and mysterious man, and she’s crushed when she doesn’t see him again until another change encounter with Chiara and her boyfriend. Elise’s life is changed after this encounter, and she definitely goes down a different path than everyone expected for the rest of the book.
I give The Mermaids of Lake Michigan a 3.5 out of 5. This is an engaging coming of age story with a bit of magical realism set in the 1970s, but it’s a bit on the shorter side with an ending that felt rushed. I really connected with Elise’s character and her need to find someone that was just hers. The novel really read more like Elise’s journal, but was descriptive and the narrative flowed smoothly back and forth from her childhood and her eighteenth year. All of the secondary characters had depth and uniqueness, and I really enjoyed her mother’s character as well. I just wish that there was a bit more to this novel since it came in at under 200 pages, and it felt like there was more to explore with Elise’s story once she returned to Michigan.
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About Suzanne Kamata
Suzanne Kamata was born and raised in Grand Haven, Michigan. She is most recently from Lexington, South Carolina, and now lives in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan with her husband and two children. Her short stories, essays, articles and book reviews have appeared in over 100 publications including Real Simple, Brain, Child, Crab Orchard Review, and The Japan Times. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and received a Special Mention in 2006. She is also a two-time winner of the All Nippon Airways/ Wingspan Fiction Contest, winner of the Paris Book Festival Award, and winner of the Half the World Global Literati Award for the novel.
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