The Mermaid's Sister
What I loved:
The books is told from Clara's point of view. Clara is shy and modest, but loves her family fiercely. She's the quiet shadow to her charming sister Maren. Maren is becoming a mermaid. The two of them were raised by their "aunt" Verity. Maren was brought to Auntie in a seashell. Clara has always been told that she was brought by a stork. A recurring theme in the book is what is going to happen to Clara? While Maren's mermaid change advances, she must always be kept in salt water and loses her voice. She cries tears of pearl, and shrinks every day. Meanwhile, Clara has never shown signs of changing into a stork. One of the most poignant moments in the book is when Clara wonders, "What am I without her? Just a girl left by a stork."
Clara knows she can't lose her sister. If Maren doesn't get to the ocean, then she will die. Clara enlists the help of their "almost-brother" O'Neill, left at the base of an apple tree. I was unsure of their ages in the first two chapters, but then it was clear that they are in their late teens. O'Neill travels with Scarff, Aunt Verity's boyfriend. They were separated by a fairy curse, which forced Scarff to lead the life of a traveling merchant, and take his adoptive son, O'Neill with him. Once Scarff returned for good, O'Neill and Clara set off on a journey to take Maren to the sea.
By this point, Maren is so weak that she can fit completely into a claw footed bathtub. Clara and O'Neill put her in the wagon, and then they set off on their journey. Throughout all of this, Clara displays a quiet kind of strength. She's in love with O'Neill, but wouldn't act on it because she knows Maren is in love with him. The complicated emotions are handles really well. It's a love triangle that seems like it can only end in tragedy because no matter what happens, Maren has two fates: to become a mermaid, or to die trying to get into the ocean.
But their journey to save Maren is destroyed when the trio's wagon is blown up, and they're kidnapped by circus performers. The circus family at first treats the trio like they're saving them. But soon we learn that Madame Soraya and her son want to use Maren for their own gain. O'Neill and Clara are powerless against people who survive on trickery and threats. O'Neill and Clara start to lose their way and their hope. They spend days learning to become part of this circus and it's hard to see them suffer. This is perhaps the most powerful part of the narrative: finding hope and bravery when you don't think you have any left. That, and family.
Family is what leads Clara to her emotional growth. She sees herself a certain way. For instance when she said, "I know I am no princess. I do envy Maren a little, and O'Neill as well. She is a mermaid; he is a performer. They have their places in the world. Me, I am just a girl who may or may not become a stork."
Then, there's the way O'Neill sees her: "I swore to save Maren and to protect you. But you were the hero, weren't you? You were the one who made me brave when I might have given up. You were the one who stood up to Jasper...You were your sister's hero, and you are mine. My brave, brave Clara."
What left me wanting more:
The pace of the novel is slow, but I think that's also a good thing. Every moment is poignant, and necessary. It pulls you into the story and lets you relish in the language.
The Mermaid's Sister is an adventure of self-discovery, family, and true love. It's a must read for fairytale lovers.