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Mermaids in Paradise.


Mermaids in Paradise

By Lydia Millet

Lydia Millet has published a short story collection and nine novels, including Oh Pure and Radiant Heart (**** Nov/ Dec 2005), How the Dead Dream (***1/2 May/June 2008), and Ghost Lights (**** Mar/Apr 2012). She has an environmental policy background and is a staff writer with the Center for Biological Diversity.

THE STORY: Narrator Deb, a cynical MBA graduate, recently married Chip, a typical male obsessed with gaming, sports, and sex. On their honeymoon, Deb is all ready to dismiss this British Virgin Islands resort as a tourist trap for Middle Americans--until, in a moment of magic, she spots mermaids on a diving trip to a nearby coral reef. While the hotel chain capitalizes on the find by setting up a theme park, the Californian newlyweds join a Japanese television personality and an ex-Navy SEAL in an attempt to save the mermaids. Despite its increasingly madcap plot, Millet's novel is a subtle satire on everything from environmental exploitation to the modern wedding industry.

Norton. 304 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780393245622

Dallas Morning News ****

"When the cynical narrator sees the mermaids with her own eyes, the reader buys into the magic, too, setting skepticism aside for the anything-can-happen fun that's the reason many of us started reading fiction to begin with. ... Like any good satire, Mermaids in Paradise exaggerates, veers into absurdity and throws in some mythical creatures for good measure, but along the way it delivers sharp commentary about the state of the world." JENNY SHANK

Tampa Bay Times ****

"Millet, who has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, is an always intriguing novelist whose books display biting wit, deep insight, stylistic versatility, elegant language and a ruthlessly intelligent sensibility. ... Throughout, Millet weaves in allusions both to ancient myths such as harpies and, of course, mermaids and to their modern equivalents like movies and video games." COLETTE BANCROFT

Entertainment Weekly ***1/2

"What looks like a novel about mermaids is actually a deft satire about another species: the ethical human. ... if the ending seems over-the-top, well, the author--who has a degree in environmental policy--might say that our crimes against nature are just as absurd." MELISSA MAERZ

Chicago Tribune ***

"it may be that the short story, which rewards swiftness and irony, is really the best showground for Millet's gifts. ... in Mermaids in Paradise, Millet never commits to her plot or her characters with the same honesty and feeling that she does to her surveillance of the world." Charles finch

Cleveland Plain Dealer ***

"[Parts of the novel too] quickly [descend] into a belabored mash-up of screwball comedy and thriller. Hard to believe, but Millet gets boring in the novel's middle sections." TRICIA SPRINGSTUBB

Boston Globe **1/2

"it is a farce with no hilarity, a riff on environmental exploitation that is only half as strange as it promises to be. in Millet's recent tear of terrific fiction, it is the single, rare, misfire." JOHN FREEMAN

Washington Post **1/2

"Millet sets Chip and Deb on a collision course with farce and loses control of her plot. ... if Millet's mermaids are beautiful and graceful, though, the satire in her novel isn't: it's chaotic and exhausting." BARBARA J. KING


Millet's scientific knowledge authenticates her vision of a fragile landscape and rare species endangered by development. Critics warmed to Deb's sarcastic voice--"hysterical, judgmental, free-associating" (Dallas Morning News)--but many felt that Millet's satire fell flat, its plot both ridiculous and predictable. "It feels less like a Karen Russell novel on vacation and more like Weekend at Bernies without the laughs" (Boston Globe). Chip's "mud marathon" bachelor party is an early highlight, and the ending, which reveals that mermaids are not so different from humanity as we might believe, is "a minor miracle," but the book as a whole might just be too "messy and slack" (Boston Globe) to convey a serious message.


***** CLASSIC A timeless book to be read by all

**** EXCELLENT One of the best of its genre

*** GOOD Enjoyable, particularly for fans of the genre

** FAIR Some problems, approach with caution

* POOR Not worth your time
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Date:Mar 1, 2015
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