“What man didn’t wish for a guiding light on the horizon of his life, a flash to signal danger or safety? Living next to a lighthouse that had no beam seemed ironic to him.” Erika Marks, THE MERMAID COLLECTOR
Fellow NAL/Penguin author Erika Marks came to my attention when I read and loved her first novel, LITTLE GALE GUMBO. When I found out that her second novel took place in two time periods, I eagerly awaited its release. From the first page of THE MERMAID COLLECTOR I was hooked, and quickly read and enjoyed it.
Set in the town of Cradle Harbor, Maine, THE MERMAID COLLECTOR takes place during the Mermaid Festival–the annual ritual remembering the Mermaid Mutiny of 1888, when a group of the town’s men were reportedly lured to sea by the mermaid’s call.
Local outsider and sculptor Tess Patterson wins a contest with her mermaid woodcarving and finds unlikely love with a troubled man caring for his difficult brother. In 1888, a barren fisherman’s wife becomes entangled in a painful scandal that threatens her marriage and her sanity. As the mermaid festival approaches, the mysteries of the present and past are woven together until their final connection and climax.
The multi-period novel is a complex story structure that, when done well, makes an outstanding read. When the stories of the present and the past have equal weight, the characters are equally engaging, and the stories are connected by setting or circumstance, the plot and themes are richer for it.
Marks has perfectly blended her multi-period narratives, and has created a compelling and satisfying drama. I found myself quickly reading each section because I was so interested in developments in the next. I’m generally drawn to the past in such narratives, but Marks’ present day characters and story were as complete and interesting to me as those in the past.
Marks’ writing style is smooth and immediate, and her descriptions of the coast of Maine made me long to visit. The book moved me to tears from both tragedy and redemption, and I’ll be thinking about it long after I’ve closed its pages.
If you enjoy stories of love, family secrets, and that demonstrate the relationship of the present to history, you will love THE MERMAID COLLECTOR. I can’t wait to read Marks’ next book.
For more on Erika or her novels, her website is http://www.erikarobuck.wordpress.com .