Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “When We Believed in Mermaids” as Want to Read:
When We Believed in Mermaids
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

When We Believed in Mermaids

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  116,309 ratings  ·  7,109 reviews

From the author of The Art of Inheriting Secrets comes an emotional new tale of two sisters, an ocean of lies, and a search for the truth.

Her sister has been dead for fifteen years when she sees her on the TV news…

Josie Bianci was killed years ago on a train during a terrorist attack. Gone forever. It’s what her sister, Kit, an ER doctor in Santa Cruz, has always b

Kindle Edition, 348 pages
Published July 16th 2019 by Lake Union Publishing
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 When We Believed in Mermaids, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
John Threadgill Wow .. doesn't anyone like real-life depicted? Do you all just like reading fairytales?? :-o…moreWow .. doesn't anyone like real-life depicted? Do you all just like reading fairytales?? :-o(less)
Judy B VERY GOOD. I'm a surfer and have friends in New Zealand and have lived in Northern Calif. I play guitar and loved these characters.…moreVERY GOOD. I'm a surfer and have friends in New Zealand and have lived in Northern Calif. I play guitar and loved these characters.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  116,309 ratings  ·  7,109 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of When We Believed in Mermaids
BreeAnn (She Just Loves Books)
What I Loved: I loved the cover of this book. Fair warning, this was not a well-liked book for me.

How I Felt: The beginning of this book had me completely hooked. "My sister had been dead for fifteen years when I see her on the TV news." I was like, "Yes!" This book is going to be awesome!" I felt so let down from that point on. I, in no way, ever want to bash a book, and I am usually finding myself handing out 4 and 5 star reviews because I just love books, but I was on the Struggle-Bus for thi
When we Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal is a 2019 Lake Union publication.

A drama that probes the complexity of family, sisterly bonds and the power of love and forgiveness

Kit’s sister, Josie, died years ago during a terrorist attack. But, while watching television footage of a club fire, Kit swears that one of the people stumbling out of the smoke and debris is Josie. The resemblance is so uncanny, even Kit’s mother is shaken by it and urges Kit to take time off to pursue the possibilit
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You're Going To Want To Read This Somewhere Where You Can Cry. Wow. This is a tragic tale, all around. It is primarily about two sisters and the scars they share - and the lengths they will both go to try to overcome them. Amazing story, solid mystery (though some of it becomes obvious earlier than the actual reveal). This one will grabs you with the first line, has you tearing up a bit early on... and then can have full on water works through the last quarter to third or so of the tale. Light a ...more
Gemma Clark
Feb 04, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
So much wasted potential. Fair warning, I did not enjoy this book. (I don't think there's spoilers but proceed at risk)

I’m absolutely gutted at how dreadful this book was. It has firmly lodged itself in my top five least favourite books of the past couple of years and almost led me to have a January DNF – as if January 2020 hasn’t been bad enough as it is.

This year I decided to put aside some of my beloved fantasy in favour for a little more dramatic reading. After this, I think I’ll be convert
Jeanne Adamek
I am planning, sometime in the future, on re-reading this book. Barbara O´Neal is one of my favorite authors, her descriptive abilities are powerful... lush. I have to admit that I couldn´t dnf this story. it wasn´t boring or slow. If anything it was (for me) too detailed, too dark.

I admit I read to a certain degree to escape. To experience things (even if only on paper) like visiting new places, foods, ideas or even time periods. And this story did give me the first three of these things--it wa
Susan Peterson
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When We Believed in Mermaids is an engrossing, turbulent, and poignant book about two sisters, Kit and Josie. When the story begins, Kit is shocked to see her sister in the background of a news broadcast from New Zealand, thousands of miles away from their home in California--especially since Josie had been killed 15 years earlier. When she goes to New Zealand to find her sister, Kit unknowingly sets off a chain of events that will impact her own life, as well as that of her sister and the life ...more
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is primarily about two sisters, the scars they share and the lengths they will both go to try and overcome them. I was immediately drawn in! I instantly connected with this author's writing style and characters.

The book is an easy read and may be predictable at times, but I tend to look for this in a light read. The book provides romance, lies, passion, and betrayals with a little mystery thrown in. Something for everyone
Barb in Maryland
3.5 stars. I enjoyed it, but... I was often annoyed with the characters, the narration, the speed with which everything occurred. (Maybe I was just reading with my grumpy pants on).

The blurb is pretty good at giving the basic set-up.

The chapters alternate viewpoints between Kit and Mari, with each chapter revealing more of the past while also grounding us in each sister's current life. Kit's search for her sister (and her budding romance with Javier) seem to take longer than the few days that th
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
To be honest, I wasn't impressed. The synopsis sounded more promising than what was actually delivered. The book fell flat for me. If you want to read a good book about sisters, I suggest reading Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner instead! ...more
Kiki Z
Aug 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was a solid read but a few things kept me from really enjoying it. One, Josie is very selfish, and when she's young, with her issues, it's understandable. As an adult though... I really cannot fathom how she stayed away from her family for fifteen years seemingly without remorse, lied to her husband for over a decade, and thought she could get away with it. Two, Josie and Kit reconnect far too late in the story for real drama to happen, so the ending is lackluster. Everything is forgiv ...more
Jamie Beck
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are too many things to rave about here. Lush writing, as always with this author. You will feel transported to New Zealand, a place I think we must all go visit. You'll be lulled into an intensely romantic subplot. You'll have a front row seat to a bittersweet reunion filled with angst and hope and disappointment and love. This story is really set in two time periods, but is elegantly, artfully woven together by well-placed flashbacks that resonate so deeply. And the tragedies that befell ...more
May 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: x-3-star, z2020-05
Rating: Good


I have seen this book on Kindle Unlimited's best seller for a long time so I decided to give it a chance. I went into it without even reading the synopsis. It is the story of two sisters Kit and Josie. Josie was killed many years ago while being on a train due to a terrorist attack. One day, while watching live coverage of a club fire in Auckland Kit sees this woman on the TV who looks like Josie a lot. She believes it is Josie so she travels to New Zealand to find
Jo Furniss
Sep 25, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mar-20, 5000-2020
When We Believed In Mermaids is a novel about sisters, love, lies, loss and healing.
The storyline switches between two sisters and between the past and the present.
I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written story!
L.A. Starks
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Lewis
Nov 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
Wish I had seen that the genre was “romance “ and “chick lit” (what a horrid term!). The book description focuses on the relationship between the two sisters and promises suspense but reader beware —— you’ll spend pages upon pages on inane descriptions of kit and her budding romance and every detail of their pastries and his chest hair and sunglasses, with only glimpses of the actual plot. I really hate to not finish a book but I couldn’t make it past page 91.
Jennifer Kyle
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 Stars 🌟
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Powerful story of love and family with very likable characters. Liked how the story weaved the characters’ past with the present. Many readers are giving this 5 stars but it didn’t WOW me. Nevertheless a great read with some romance and mystery if that’s what you’re looking for.
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like it.

I tried. I wanted to like the book. I finished it. However, the long detailed flashbacks that a woman has, who started her life over 15 years ago, it was just repetitive and unrealistic that she was having them the same time her sister happened to be in town.
Just the flashback style alone...I couldn’t. It was over reaching. She looked out a window...had a flashback. Wrote with her fountain pen...had a memory. A very detailed memory. Was this her daily life? FOR 15 YEARS? No.
Oct 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stunning, quick read that I finished in just two sittings! When We Believed in Mermaids is a raw and tormented story of two sisters. Their tale is told in alternating chapters with flash backs to their tumultuous childhood that was filled with neglect, abuse, and addiction.

It's a story that made me question what is family, what is love, and when is it better to walk away? I highly recommend, but have your tissues nearby!
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was... less than mediocre.

The book claims to be some kind of mystery but really, it's not. The first line is Kit seeing her presumed-dead-from-a-terror-attack-in-France sister on the news about a nightclub fire in New Zealand. So Kit flies off to Auckland to... hook up with a Spanish musician and eat pastries and buy inks and hook up with the Spanish musician some more and comment on his chest hair and spare-tire belly and she asks like 2 people if they've seen her sister and ugh...

Faith Freewoman
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartrending and beautiful. But this is no easy ride.

The sisters' problems are real and crushing, and about halfway through I was far from convinced that they would resolve them, or their relationships. The men in this story are villains or heroes, or both, and I found Dylan the most poignant, while Javier was the one I want to take home with me.

But none of the men are able to step in and save the day. The sisters must do it for themselves, and fight through very difficult histories to get ther
chels marieantoinette
This book was a little cheesy for me. The love story and all the woah-is-me stuff were a little too much and I found myself uninterested & irritated. Kit and Josie definitely had horrible childhoods, but everyone needs to move on and move up eventually. I wanted to shake both of them.
The dialogue was well-written, though. The descriptions of surfing, Sicilian home-cooking, touring Auckland, and the art-deco Sapphire House create beautiful imagery.
I’d recommend this book to anyone into love stori
Sherri Thacker
A quick read that I really enjoyed.
Karen Book bum Bianco
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I just loved this book. The way the author describes things makes you vision what she is seeing in her mind. Makes you feel what the characters are feeling taste what they are eating. ok I am getting carried away but i haven't had breakfast and I sure am hungry 🤣

When I found out why she made herself disappear I was disappointed. I was thinking I could have thought of something better. I would have made her a spy or a mob hit woman who had to dissapear 🤣But when I finished I wouldn't have changed
Miki Mackennedy
“My sister has been dead for nearly fifteen years when I see her on the TV news.”

With that fantastic opening line, we drop in to the story of 2 sisters, one presumed dead and one barely living.
Two little girls, Josie and Kit, are raised by parents so enthralled with each other that they neglect their children, leaving them largely unattended in a little cove by their home. During a storm, a broken and unwanted teenage boy appears as their door, offering the girls a bit of security and stability
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! It has been a while since I read a book that moved me like this one. Probably not since I read Where The Crawdads Sing a year and a half ago. On the surface it is about two sisters growing up, raising themselves and each other, on the Northern California coast. Their parents owned a restaurant and house both of which hung on a cliff. A runaway boy comes into their lives when they are very young. He takes care of them when their parents neglect them. He teaches them to surf and seems to be t ...more
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Kit travels to New Zealand to find out if that really was her sister Josie she saw briefly on TV. Her very ordered life as an ER doctor is thrown off balance in a good way.

The book goes back and forth between the sister's POV, and throughout there are also flashbacks to a tragic and chaotic childhood. It's a very emotional book, there is a lot of grief in the sister's lives. But there's also joy, and I very much enjoyed the romance between Kit and Javier.

I found Kit a more compelling character
✨Sofia ✨
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
“There are seasons of darkness, yes? Loss and sadness all around.” He tightens his grip. “But if you are patient, the circle turns, and then there is happiness all around, everything good, everyone happy.”

The story of Jodie and Kit, of long lost sisters, so promising. From the premise alone, I was already hooked. However, everything fell flat for me. Here's why:

What I liked/loved about this book
1. Javier. And probably Sarah too. Yup, that's it.

What I didn’t like
1. The writing
It felt too fluf
Kit Bianci believed her sister was dead, that is until she saw her on the television news 15 years later. Kit decides to travel to New Zealand and find her sister Josie and get some sort of explanation or closure. When the two sisters are reunited all their dark secrets are revealed. They will have to share all of them in order to move on and fix the broken relationships.

I found this book to be very slow to start and was almost halfway through the book before I started to enjoy it. I found Kit'
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • In an Instant
  • The Last of the Moon Girls
  • If You Tell
  • Last Day
  • The Dressmaker's Gift
  • Stay
  • Where the Forest Meets the Stars
  • One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow
  • The Silent Daughter
  • Where the Story Starts
  • Lying Next to Me
  • This Is Not How It Ends
  • Brave Girl, Quiet Girl
  • The Oceans Between Us
  • The Wonder of Now (Sanctuary Sound, #3)
  • Third Party
  • The Good Neighbor
  • Wildflower Hope (The Wildflower House #2)
See similar books…
Barbara O'Neal is the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling writer of women's fiction. She lives in Colorado with her partner, a British endurance athlete.


Articles featuring this book

Our collective definition of FOMO may have changed recently, but—somehow—it’s still easy to feel like you’re missing out while sheltering...
115 likes · 56 comments
“it’s not about comparison, as my counselor used to say. My pain is my pain.” 9 likes
“Your quest is powerful. You needn’t apologize for the space it takes.” 4 likes
More quotes…