Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet

As much as I love Goodreads, I rarely look at ratings for a book before I read it. I usually read reviews after I’ve already read the book because I don’t like having other people’s opinions in my head while I’m reading a book. In this case, I wish that I looked at the rating before listening to this on OverDrive. It has a rating of less than 3.0. That is rare on Goodreads and now that I’ve finished the book, I can understand why.

The book is about a couple (mid-to-late twenties I think) getting married, going on their honeymoon to the British Virgin Isles and then adventure ensues when they encounter mermaids. Yes, mermaids. I was very intrigued by this plot because it’s not something I encounter in books on a regular basis. So much potential.

The first few chapters were actually pretty good. The book starts off with the engaged couple, Deb and Chip, thinking about their bachelor/ette parties and other pre-wedding things. Millet inserts some interesting insights to the wedding industry that were witty and fun to read about.

The book really loses its legs when Deb and Chip embark on their honeymoon, which is about 80% of the novel. Millet uses the same tone throughout the book of Deb having ‘witty’ insights that quickly lose their wit and become obnoxious. Millet’s witticism in this book is like that one person at a party who tells a joke that people laugh at and compliment the joke-teller on how clever it was. The joke-teller then keeps repeating it ad-nauseum until you want to punch him/her in the face. You try to get away from the joke-teller but he/she keeps appearing with the same stupid joke.

The characters get themselves into trouble and some of it is pretty serious – i.e. with national and international authorities. They have guns pointed in their faces. Some people get abducted. Serious shit happens. What is Deb’s insight to these things? oh em gee, I’m wearing a muumuu, I’m gonna be the woman in pictures wearing a muumuu. oh em gee, that lady has eyebrows like caterpillars. It’s like the author is trying to be funny and witty at the same time but the wit that she inserts into the book at the most inappropriate time ends up being shallow and devoid of any meaningful insight.

Reading this book felt like I was indulging the author’s vanity project where she pats herself on the back for being so clever and cute, never mind that it comes across as absolute drivel. The book is advertised as a satire and the point gets whacked across your head throughout the book. It ended up feeling very gimmicky with very little substance.

If you’re interested in reading this book, read only the first part prior to the honeymoon and pretend it’s a short story. Trust me, it’s all downhill from there. By downhill, I mean it PLUMMETS.

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