Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience” as Want to Read:
Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  594 ratings  ·  76 reviews
From Oprah's Best Memoirs of 2014:

At the age of three, Eileen Cronin first realized that only she did not have legs. Her boisterous Catholic family accepted her situation as God's will, treating her no differently than her ten siblings, as she squiddled through their 1960s Cincinnati home. But starting school, even wearing prostheti
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 20th 2014 by W. W. Norton Company
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mermaid, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mermaid

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  594 ratings  ·  76 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Terrific book - but then I'm in it. ...more
Anne Mini
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
To read Eileen Cronin's devastatingly human memoir is to be plunged into a seemingly bottomless well of very deep emotions: burning shock, fierce longing, everyday desire, well-founded rage, and a monumental yearning to be seen as one actually is. Many of the scenes here are of nightmare-level intensity, ranging from the perspectives of a mobility-limited small child wiggling at her mentally ill mother's feet, desperate for love and attention, to the buddingly lovely adolescent making out in the ...more
Robby Hamlin
Nov 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book on many levels. Since I am not experienced in reviewing the books I read, I can only say what it meant to me. I chose to read it when I noticed its overall subject, living with a disability. A few years back and turning 65, I decided I would try to write a memoir about my partially disabling condition. It was not because of a birth defect, rather a sudden occurrence when I was 21, a car crash. It seems like so much happened in so short a after that - and I remember it so ...more
Dec 16, 2014 rated it liked it
I found the writing here to be odd. Sometimes there were long descriptions of events the author obviously felt were crucial to understand her life story, but they were written in such a way that they were very hard to follow, or hard to figure out. It felt sometimes like we were being asked to read between the lines without enough information. The book is really less about the author's disability than about her family, a huge Catholic family with a lot of issues. There is also ENDLESS talk about ...more
Dec 13, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a tortuous book to read. The author is born disabled, lacking her forelegs and having one hand that was webbed at birth and surgically separated when she was an infant, but which she still refers to as "my claw hand." The most prominent aspect of the book to me was her nasty family of 12 devout, conservative Roman Catholics who openly called her "Looney" instead of Eileen.

She admits to being a fiercely independent child, but it still seems like her family ostracizes and marginalizes her,
Phillip Saunders
Mar 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book, amazing author
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Because her mom took thalidomide during her pregnancy, Eileen Cronin was born without legs. She was born into a Catholic family with 10 siblings. None of the other children had any disabilities. Growing up, Eileen was always told that it was God's will that she had this disability. Growing up was difficult for Eileen. She battled bullying and embarrassment. As she got older, she heard rumors about the drug thalidomide and that possibly her mother had taken it while pregnant with her. Since her m ...more
Sharon Hart
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Mermaid evokes so many powerful emotions. It's a truthful look at growing up in a family of eleven.
We watch Eileen grow up in the story and see her tenacity as a little girl born without legs to a family of competitive, athletes and ballerinas. She describes her own flaws as well as her family's with a layer of compassion. The story begins as we watch her first "squiddle" and then literally and figuratively she grows into a beautiful mermaid by taking her pen to paper and ultimately finding her
Len Joy
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a great story. If it were told by a less skillful writer, it would be easy for the reader to be overwhelmed by the material. Cronin paints revealing, but compassionate portraits of the people who have touched her life: mother, father, siblings, boyfriends, caregivers, extended family. She has a huge cast and a LOT of challenges, but the story never bogs down. Very well-written, great pacing and emotionally gripping. Highly recommend it.
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was privileged to receive an advanced copy of Mermaid. It is an utterly engaging story about a young woman growing up in a Catholic family with 10 siblings, finding her way in the world, and oh yeah, she has no legs! I found it funny, poignant, and heart breaking. The memoir reads like a novel and I couldn’t put it down. This book is definitely 5 stars!
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I literally can't put this book down. Eileen is a master at crafting language that will transport you into the world of her upbringing, ranging from indifference to her plight, to ridicule and bullying. It takes an extraordinary character to rise above her childhood, and she has just this sort of spirit ...more
Nell Boyle
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Eileen Cronin is a gifted storyteller. She uses humor and warmth to share the challenges and happy times of her youth. The book flows seamlessly chapter to chapter to engage and entertain you as you see life through Eileen's eye's. ...more
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
An unflinchingly, honest, heartbreaking and often heartwarming memoir documenting everything from family, religion, attitudes towards disability and the search for love. Worthy of 5 stars and a great read.

(I received my edition of Mermaid through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway).
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
received this book as a goodreads promotion! phenomenal memoir.
Pat Ferrandino
Feb 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Emotional and well written. So many of her own insights rang true for me.
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Very powerful story and well-written.
Andrea Forro
Mar 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Well written, engaging....draws you right into this damaged, hilarious Irish family. Loved it!
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I had a hard time putting this book down. The author does a great job mixing humor, conflict, sadness, loss, rivalry, and abandonment into a very interesting story. At the core was her experience as a child with a serious birth defect. I have to admit that I wondered at her difficulty with all of her relationships (one sympathizes with her family as they cope with her insecurities), but it's hard to know how one would be growing up so physically different from one's peers. I greatly admire her f ...more
Miko Lee
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
Mixed feelings about this memoir of growing up in Midwestern Irish Catholic family. Eileen is the middle of her ten siblings, born without legs she finds multiple ways to succeed. She felt most free when swimming without her artificial legs hence the title.

The entire book feels a bit like an assignment from a therapist as a means to deconstruct and then come to turns with a big complicated family.

I'm sorry to say that I just didn't feel her storytelling technique. At one point she mentions she
May 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Eileen Cronin admirably describes in juicy and vivid detail her coming of age in a large and boisterous Irish Catholic family in Cincinnati. Born without legs because of her mother's possibly taking thalidomide early in her pregnancy with Eileen (which mystery resonates through her entire tale until it is resolved in the end), she strives to find her place in the family--which means rebelling--and in the world. Reading this book was like being on a roller-coaster ride: exciting and not sure what ...more
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
I lowered my rating to a 4 star because I'm afraid I was too swayed with all of the Cincy references that I shared with the author. Although she's a few years younger than me it was so great to read about her early years growing up around the same time and city as me. The silence of the parents about the circumstances of her disability was so normal for so many issues during that time and it probably doesn't seem plausible for today's generation. I applaud what I think is a truthful accounting o ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 50-books-in-2014
This is one of those books that I found myself picking up to read every time I had a free minute. Eileen's life experiences are very unique to her, but I found myself identifying with her over and over again. She doesn't make herself the martyr, but writes a very honest and intimate story of her life. ...more
Carol Malnati
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a great memoir, one of the best I've read. Story of a young girl growing up in large (11 kids!!) Catholic family....girl is possibly a Thalidomide baby, born with no legs. Sometimes heartbreaking, but mostly amazing how strong she is. I found it hard to put down. ...more
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book- It illustrates the complex dynamic in any large family, even apart from the issues of one of its members being disabled. Given that, I can't help but feel resentment toward the narrator's mother and family at large for withholding the truth from her for so long. ...more
Mar 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
HIghly recommend. An unflinching look at a wild family life from a resilient gal who was born with no legs. Just sails along telling the story, very well crafted memoir writing.
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
I hate to give a memoir a low rating, but I couldn't get beyond page 20. The prose doesn't flow well and the whole thing seemed clunky. ...more
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Terrific. Extremely compelling and thought provoking about growing up and navigating life with a congenital disability
Rachel Pruchno
May 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
Incredibly strong start. Beautiful writing, captivating. Falls flat by page 30.
Maureen Flatley
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A classic 1950 Irish Catholic girl's memoir. Just lovely. ...more
Victoria Phelps
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I met Cronin at an AWP panel on writing disability narratives several years ago and purchased her book shortly afterwards. The situations Cronin finds herself in--especially regarding her family--were at times laugh-out-loud funny, at times sobering, and at times both.

My only critique is that the memoir form may not have been as tight as desired, and I could see this maybe working better as a collection form. Still, I'm so glad she decided to share her story with the world, and I'm happy to reco
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • How Not to Diet: The Groundbreaking Science of Healthy, Permanent Weight Loss
  • The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-term Health
  • Dans le café de la jeunesse perdue
  • Abandonarse a la pasión: Ocho relatos de amor y desamor
  • The Other Mrs. Miller
  • Tales of the Unexpected
  • Words on Bathroom Walls
  • The Great Christmas Knit Off
  • Selections from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Piano Solos
  • The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter
  • Twenty-one Truths About Love
  • A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts
  • In The Gloaming
  • Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life
  • Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary
  • Last Stories
  • Improvement
  • Playing for Pizza
See similar books…
Eileen Cronin is the author of Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience, WW Norton, one of Oprah's Best Memoirs of 2014:
And in Pop Sugar's Must Reads of 2014.

Mermaid was featured in The Daily Beast, and was on Page One in Poets & Writers. If you read Mermaid, please consider reviewing it, or vote on these lists:

Related Articles

Anne Lamott, the beloved writer of memoirs including Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies, once said, “You own everything that happened to you....
60 likes · 22 comments