Laura's Reviews > Monstrous Beauty

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
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Jun 20, 12

bookshelves: 2012-mt-bookpile, old-reads
Read in June, 2012

If you thought The Little Mermaid was sad - the original version, not the Disney one - and liked it, read this book.

Syrenka is obsessed with humans. She doesn't understand them at first, that they can't live underwater the way she can, but by the time she meets Ezra, she does. Ezra falls in love with her, writing pages and pages in his journal about her life (and that of the other mermaids) undersea and drawings of her. Note: this mermaid has fins on her arms (think Batman's costume) and they can do damage. Ezra lives in a superstitious time (the 1820s), and when a fisherman tries to "save" him from Syrenka, disaster strikes.

Fast forward to today, with Hester, a high school junior, making the decision to never have children: for the past five generations, the women have died shortly after giving birth to a daughter (and the doctors can't figure out why they've died, adding to the mystery). She spends her summer working as a historical interpreter in Plimoth Plantation, but she's more of a science buff. When she was much younger, she befriended a strange girl, Linnie, who hung out in the cemetery on Burial Hill. One night, during a picnic, she meets a man, Ezra...

Told in alternating chapters, we learn about Syrenka (now Sarah) and Hester and how their lives might interact. Both are obsessed with a guy named Ezra, and both are somehow linked to each other. That's enough to whet your appetite, right?

The historical chapters read better in some ways than the modern day ones do; perhaps it's because Hester's new-found obsession doesn't quite ring true. Or perhaps it's because the Ezra/Sarah story is a little more fully realized. The librarians got a definite "thumbs up" from me, of course. I wish there had been more time spent at the Plimoth Plantation reenactment (there were many ways that could have dovetailed nicely with the older story).

ARC provided by publisher.
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