Book Review: The Pisces

The PiscesThe Pisces
by Melissa Broder
Contemporary Fiction/Urban Fantasy/Magical Realism
270 pages
Published May 2018

I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while; you know how much I like my mermaids! This one is male, and not as predatory as the rest, but still good. This is one of the books from my summer TBR list, and the second book I’ve read from that list so far.

I feel like this book is better classified as Contemporary Fiction than fantasy; the existence of the merman is the only magical thing about it. Everything else is an exploration on love, obsession, and the lengths people will go to to meet their needs. Broder manages to wax philosophical but with a frankness that keeps everything relatable; from missing ex-boyfriends to worrying about Tinder dates, to thinking about the empty abyss of the ocean at night, Lucy’s inner dialogue speaks to the anxiety within all of us.

I went back and forth as to whether I actually liked Lucy or not. I did like her for most of the book, but then she had to go and be stupid and I’m not sure I can forgive her for that. It does illustrate how far some people will go when they’re obsessed with something, so it’s realistic, I suppose. But I’d rather the cost had fallen on Lucy instead of the innocent bystander.

The ending of the book wasn’t entirely satisfactory. It wrapped up the story, sure, but the next to the last paragraph introduced a question that hadn’t otherwise been considered, and leaves it unanswered. Which is a pet peeve of mine. It’s not philosophy, it’s a question of is she or isn’t she, and that’s not something the reader can really theorize about.

Overall, I really liked the book. There were a couple of events that annoyed me, but for the most part, this was a good summer read. It largely takes place on the beach, it’s at turns funny, sexy, sad, and weird. I think it’s mostly deserving of the hype it received.

From the cover of The Pisces:

Lucy has been writing her dissertation on Sappho for nine years when she and her boyfriend break up in a dramatic flameout. After she bottoms out in Phoenix, her sister in Los Angeles insists Lucy dog-sit for the summer. Annika’s home is a gorgeous glass cube on Venice Beach, but Lucy finds little relief from her anxiety – not in the Greek chorus of women in her love addiction therapy group, not in her frequent Tinder excursions, not even in Dominic the foxhound’s easy affection.

Everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer while sitting alone on the beach rocks one night. But when Lucy learns the truth about his identity, their relationship – and Lucy’s understanding of what love should look like – takes a very unexpected turn. A masterful blend of vivid realism and giddy fantasy, pairing hilarious frankness with pulse-racing eroticism, The Pisces is a story about falling in obsessive love with a merman, a figure of sirenic fantasy whose very existence pushes Lucy to question everything she thought she knew about love, lust, and meaning in the one life we have.

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