I received this book at no cost from the publisherMermaid Moon by Susann Cokal
Published by Candlewick Press on March 3, 2020
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (March 3, 2020)
Praise for MERMAID MOON
“Susann Cokal’s latest miracle, Mermaid Moon, springs from the tides where Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid once swam — and walked to land. But she delivers something even more rich and strange, and a mermaid heroine who will swim away with your heart.” —Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Egg & Spoon
“Cokal’s moody and sea-drenched tale weaves touches of Hans Christian Andersen with a dash of Pied Piper, using language that gorgeously sets each scene, including the exceedingly creepy bone vault … Lyrical, complex, and occasionally dark.” —School Library Journal
“Cokal creates a well-developed matriarchal mermaid mythology in which women couple, bonded by love and respect, and men are largely unnecessary. Through several voices and richly detailed prose, these markedly different worlds overlap and diverge to impart a nuanced exploration of power, family, faith, and love.” —Publishers Weekly
“Mermaid Moon is an action-packed tale of parental abandonment, familial longing, treachery and dark magic with an appealingly determined heroine.” —BookPage
“A beautifully told, immersive story that layers fairy-tale elements with more modern themes, allowing for a different experience with every reread.” —Shelf Awareness
In the far northern reaches of civilization, a mermaid leaves the sea to look for her land-dwelling mother among people as desperate for magic and miracles as they are for life and love.
Blood calls to blood; charm calls to charm.
It is the way of the world.
Come close and tell us your dreams.
Sanna has been living as a mermaid — but she is only half seavish. The night of her birth, a sea-witch cast a spell that made Sanna’s people, including her landish mother, forget how and where she was born.
Now Sanna is sixteen and an outsider in the seavish flok where women rule and mothers mean everything. She is determined to go to land and learn who she is. So she apprentices herself to the ancient witch, Sjældent, to learn the magic of making and unmaking. With a new pair of legs and a mysterious quest to complete for her teacher, she follows a clue that leads her ashore on the Thirty-Seven Dark Islands.
Her fellow mermaids wait floating on the seaskin as Sanna stumbles into a wall of white roses thirsty for blood, a hardscrabble people hungry for miracles, and a baroness of fading beauty who will do anything to live forever, even at the expense of her own children.
From the author of the Michael L. Printz Honor Book The Kingdom of Little Wounds comes a gorgeously told tale of belonging, sacrifice, fear, hope, and mortality.
I adore retellings and this new twist on The Little Mermaid does not disappoint. Sanna is a half-landish (mother), half-seavish (father) mermaid who leaves her family (flok) on the advice of the sea-witch. She travels to the castle of Baroness Thyrla, another witch, who is known to steal the youth of others to keep herself young. This part of the story is actually pretty dark. As Sanna travels through the town, she displays the magic she has learned and while it seemed natural to her, the townsfolk hailed her as somewhat of a saint. When she finally reaches Thyrla, she finds herself engaged to her son who isn’t the brightest. As she continues her search for her mother and the treasure she needs to pay the sea-witch and the machinations of Thryla to control every situation sets up a strange dynamic in Sanna’s own mind which is where the majority of the story takes place. While the ending left me hanging, I did enjoy this one. This is perfect for fans of Gregory Maguire.
Susann Cokal is a moody historical novelist, a pop-culture essayist, book critic, magazine editor, and sometime professor of creative writing and modern literature. She lives in a creepy old farmhouse in Richmond, Virginia, with seven cats, a dog, a spouse, and some peacocks that supposedly belong to a neighbor. She is the author of two books for young adults and two for regular adults.
Susann’s previous book, The Kingdom of Little Wounds, received several national awards, including a silver medal from the American Library Association’s Michael L. Printz Award series. It also got starred reviews in Kirkus, School Library Journal, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and Publishers Weekly, and praise from Booklist, The New York Times Boook Review, and other venues. It was #3 on the Boston Globe list of best YAs of the 2013 and won an ALAN citation from the National Council of Teachers of English.
- What is on your nightstand?
Right now, a cat who has knocked a lot of things off in order to sprawl out and clean herself. Otherwise, I have a stack of books (as all of us do), a sound machine that makes ocean noises, a desk organizer for my notebooks and manuscript pages in case I need to do some writing in the middle of the night, and four or five uranium-glass dishes holding eye drops, binder clips, and other essentials. It’s a very big nightstand, really a Victorian sofa table.
If you’re asking specifically and exclusively about the books there, of course, you can delete the above. I read several books at a time, like most of us, I think. Here’s what I’m reading, in no particular order except that the first five or six are the ones I’m really reading now and the ones lower down are just those that I’ve started and plan to read more intensely:
Lucky Broken Girl, Ruth Behar
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
We Show What We Have Learned, Clare Beams
The Grace Year, Kim Liggett
Time and Again, Jack Finney
The Past Is Never, Tiffany Quay Tyson
Brujerías, Nasario García (about witchcraft in the Southwest)
Women in Frankish Society, Suzanne Fonay Wemple (research for a novel)
Wilder Girls, Rory Power
They May Not Mean to, But They Do, Cathleen Schine
The Best American Short Stories 2019
The Turnaway Girls, Hayley Chewins (rereading—so good)
Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan
- What author would you totally fan?
Not sure I should answer that—I don’t want them to see me coming! I’m a major fangirl for a bunch of people writing now.
I’ll name a few who are no longer with us: Maud Hart Lovelace, Lewis Carroll, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Hans Christian Andersen, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Jane Austen, C. S. Lewis, Barbara Pym, Vladimir Nabokov, Karen Blixen (a.k.a. Isak Dinesen), F. Scott Fitzgerald …
I’d love to have them all over to dinner. Laura would be dazzled by so much rich food (I always overcook). Jane would pick the cat hair off her dress and smile politely. Barbara would bring something called a “shape” that’s white and flavorless and kind of gooey. Maud would make us laugh, Hans would cut the napkins into lace, Zilpha would know all the questions, Clive would know all the answers, and Lewis would show up late and make us all move one seat down so we’d be eating off each other’s plates. Then Vladimir would tell us that the entire party was taking place in the mind of a writer gone delusional with a sense of her own importance, and Karen would speak up and claim to be that writer.
- What makes you cringe?
Smug people and humble brags. Also the phrase “shabby chic.”
- Do you obsessively plot out each point or just go with the flow?
I do both. I need to have a good, workable outline set up, but it’s mostly for security, to assure myself that I do know there’s a story and I can tell it. As I write, everything changes. The plot becomes more complex as the characters show me their secrets, so I write a new outline about every fifty pages.
When I’m revising, I go back and take notes on every chapter, figuring out whether two chapters are doing the same job narratively, checking for inconsistencies in characters, and most of all trying to prune away subplots. As I write, a lot of subplots develop, and I have to be stern with myself to trim them. There should be just a few subplots reflecting on the main story, completing the world, showing alternative ways of working out a problem. Two subplots. Maybe four. Not twelve.
But that’s just me; everybody, of course, is different.
As far as obsessively goes—it’s all obsessive.
- Is there a word you love to use?
My favorite word is bone. I love the way it resonates in your skull (which is in fact a bunch of bones). It’s sort of my om. But there are other words that I probably use more: wee, shirty, marvelous, kerfuffle, sempiternal, sesquipedalian …
** Also, if you have any pictures of your pet you would like to share, please attach them. My readers love animals!
It’s going to be hard to choose—how many can I include? Seven cats, a big dog, visiting peacocks and deer … Some are attached.