Unless you think a drowning, a kidnapping, and a fight over preserving a new species involving an international corporation, the British Government, and an American academic are the preferred fare of honeymoons, then Lydia Millet treats her characters to no less than the Honeymoon from Hell in her latest novel, Mermaids in Paradise. Deb and Chip plan a low key post-nuptial celebration at a resort in the British Virgin Islands, but when they meet parrot fish expert and professor Nancy Simonoff, she shares her discovery of a new species and sets in motion a maelstrom of activity. A wacky cast of characters including a kindly shrink, a paranoid hippie, a stylish couple from San Francisco, a Japanese TV star, an ironic best friend, and a bigoted ex Navy Seal are recruited to document the discovery, but there are traitors in the midst, and when profiteers get the news, a massive effort to exploit and contain the “mers” ensues. Will our heroes save the mermaids?
The voice of the narrator, Deb is smart and hilarious, particularly when describing her own flaws and those of her fantasy game-loving new husband, and her sarcastic best friend. I didn’t expect a screwball comedy from Millet whom I chose to read because of her accolades. She’s written a New York Times Notable, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle and Los Angeles Times Awards, and Pulitzer Prize finalist. Mermaids definitely made me want to read more of her work, especially because of her command of a very complicated story, her sometimes lyrical prose, and her brilliant satirical jibes on consumer and celebrity culture.
Reserve Mermaids now, and while you’re waiting, check out Millet’s other books:
* recommended by local author, Tricia Springstub