The Mermaid Girl: A StoryThe Mermaid Girl: A Story by Erika Swyler
My rating: 4/5 cats
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The problem with stealing the magician’s assistant from a carnival was that you were always waiting for her to disappear.

The problem with marrying the mermaid girl from the carnival was knowing that one day she’d swim away.

this is just a teensy short story prequel to the swyler’s novel, The Book of Speculation.

it features daniel and paulina, the parents of the narrator from t.b.o.s.; characters who do not directly appear in the novel, for reasons. despite being so short, this story really packs a punch – to those who have read speculation. i don’t recommend this as a place to dive into swyler’s writing for the first time, because although it’s a sweetly sad story all on its own, there’s no way it will have the same resonance to newcomers as it will to those who know how this story plays out in the end.

it depicts a man’s intense and unconditional love for his wife, a former circus mermaid and magician’s assistant. as with all mermaid/human love stories, there’s an inherently doomed aspect to the relationship, even when the mermaid is a circus mermaid and not an ocean mermaid; even when they have been together long enough to have two children together.

mermaids, once removed from their environments, are haunted, restless, yearning for something they now lack, even if they have the best of intentions to making their land life work.

She woke up when he carried her to the bedroom.

“Oh, you didn’t have to. The couch is fine.”

“Yeah, but you won’t be with me.”

“You’re too good to me,” she said. At some point she’d started saying those words like she meant them, like she needed him to believe them.

it’s an altogether lovely story – her writing is delicate and the tension is gentle; implicit, but nonetheless powerful for those who know where it will lead.

Paulina’s back was to him, her hair down. It spread around her, making it impossible to see her shoulders, obscuring her back and the fact that she’d not been eating well. He couldn’t see the cards, but he could hear them hit the table, a little tap when she touched them. He’d loved her hair when he’d met her, the extension of her that just kept growing. Every day there was a new piece of her to love. She said it grew a half-inch a month, that the left side grew faster than the right, and he’d filed that fact away. Every month there was a new half-inch of her to discover, and it would be so for the rest of their lives. He hadn’t imagined there would be a time when he’d want to cut it off, to shave her head to keep her from hiding.

again, it’s very short, and it doesn’t quite fill the gap between the two stories, but it takes you close enough to fill in the missing pieces, and it adds dimensions to characters that were shadowy and mythical in speculation.

i would absolutely love more of these stories – maybe the next one from paulina’s perspective?? please?

read my reviews on goodreads

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