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The Mermaid of Brooklyn: A Novel Paperback – April 2, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

With two children under the age of three, Jenny Lipkin is the typical Park Ridge stay-at-home mom, her days spent meeting with other parents in the park, her evenings spent wrangling her daughters and the household chores. Then one night her compulsive-gambler husband fails to return home. Struggling with depression and caught between being worried and angry, Jenny can barely drag herself out of bed in the morning, let alone care for her daughters, deal with her in-laws, or think about how she’ll pay for their Park Ridge apartment. Finally at the end of her rope, Jenny decides on a drastic plunge, only the outcome is not at all what she expects. As Jenny reinvents herself in the face of her family’s crisis, Shearn takes readers on an emotional journey through the social milieu of Brooklyn, where the setting itself rounds out the colorful cast of characters. Though whiny at the beginning, Jenny eventually discovers a witty humor that comes to life as her story progresses, creating a heartfelt and authentic tribute to motherhood that will resonate with contemporary moms. --Cortney Ophoff


“Amy Shearn’s second novel charmingly blends the magical with the real. … Funny, fearless, and unexpectedly moving, this modern fairy tale is, in a word, enchanting.” (Boston Globe)

“In this sly and wise new novel … Shearn captures both the beauty and the banality of parenthood. We spend most of this delightful, grown-up fairy tale wondering if the mermaid is real or a figment of Jenny's imagination—or her id. Regardless, she leaves us wondering how to bring a little mermaid magic into our own lives.” (

"A blend of Park Slope parenting and magic." (New York Times Motherlode)

"There are many laughs to be found, but most come from the dark recesses of the heart, where laughter barely conquers tears. . . . Fans of acerbic humor should enjoy The Mermaid of Brooklyn." (New York Journal of Books)

"The Mermaid of Brooklyn is an engaging and quirky read. . . . [A] witty tale of self-discovery." (New York Family)

"A total treat that will . . . make you realize motherhood is overwhelming, funny and fantastic—in fiction, too!" (

"[A] whimsical modern-day fable . . . There’s no doubt that Shearn is gifted, crafting quirky and charming prose." (Publishers Weekly)

“Shearn’s narrative is delightfully manic and extremely witty. …The author possesses a gift for infusing a mundane situation (an abandoned housewife) with the implausible (a mermaid) and building a story that many readers will find intuitive, clever and, on many levels, perfectly believable.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“A heartfelt and authentic tribute to motherhood that will resonate with contemporary moms.” (Booklist)

“A fierce and vivacious book about motherhood, astounding in itshonesty, fearless in its humor, and exploding with love.” (Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette)

“I absolutely loved this inventive, smartly written tale of astruggling single mother who finds herself seeing her life through neweyes--those of a lusty, fearless and frequently wise mermaid eager to take onall the world has to offer. Insightful and engaging.” (Jill Smolinski, author of Objects of My Affection and The Next Thing on My List)

“An absorbing, energetically offbeat novel that merits attention.” (Kansas City Star)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Original edition (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451678282
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451678284
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 52 people found the following review helpful By DL Shearn on April 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Full disclosure...Amy Shearn is my daughter. I don't know the etiquette of Amazon book reviews but you should know that I have a favorable bias towards the author.

The book is a mash-up of family lore, family history, places and names so it has a particular resonance for me. I have also spent the last 10 years or so visiting Park Slope and getting a sense of its look and feel.

That said, this book is an entertaining and ultimately revealing look at a young woman, Jenny Lipkin facing the pressures of rearing young children, unexpectedly on her own. While she sees her contemporaries seeming to thrive in an upwardly mobile pocket of a small town hidden within a big city, Jenny is literally on the edge.

What strikes me most about the writing is the keen sense of observation, of drawing the reader into the apartments, the streets, the businesses and yes, the playgrounds of Brooklyn. It is in the playgrounds that the various subcultures of Brooklyn interact (or don't, depending on the neighborhoods).

Because of its interesting take on motherhood, I suggest it would be make an appropriate, thoughtful and amusing mother's day gift.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Wendi V. on April 2, 2013
Format: Paperback
For any parent who has been able to stay at home with two or more young children, this book will take you right back to that most depressingly agonizing yet most joyful time. Amy Shearn describes situations so perfectly it gave me flashbacks, almost to the point that, at times, I was crippled with my own memories of postpartum hell. Ironically, although my heart broke for the main character, Jenny; like her, I wanted to be selfish in my own misery.

This is an amazing story of love, survival, understanding, forgiveness, and rebirth. For anyone currently fighting their own inner demons, it is inspiring and uplifting. It is proof that you are not alone and will, eventually, make it through to the other side.

Amy Shearn has a writing style so comfortable it seems as if you are part of the story watching it unfold around you. Her first book, "How Far is the Ocean from Here," was written the same way. She is one of those authors on my bookshelf that will always have an empty space anxiously awaiting the newest release.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tunis TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 2, 2013
Format: Paperback
The tagline for Amy Shearn's sophomore novel, The Mermaid of Brooklyn, reads "Sometimes all you need in life is a fabulous pair of shoes--and a little help from a mermaid." Now, if you ask me, that sounds like some kind of light chick-lit novel--and there's nothing wrong with light chick-lit. But that's not what you'll find in these pages. That's selling Amy Shearn's novel way too short.

First, it's not chick-lit at all. If you must classify, put this one down as women's fiction, but with a sharply-observed, Perotta-esque take on the village-within-a-city that is Park Slope, Brooklyn. It's the story of Jenny Lipkin, the overwhelmed mother of an infant and a toddler. In the novel's opening pages, her husband Harry calls to tell her he's stopping to pick up cigarettes on his way home. He never arrives. Days pass, and no one has heard from Harry, no one can reach him. This would, of course, be upsetting under any circumstances, but this isn't the first time it's happened. Harry has issues of his own. But he's never stayed away this long before...

Jenny is an appealing protagonist, appealing in her imperfection. She's not extraordinarily beautiful, clever, or together. Quite the contrary, she was barely getting through her days when she had her husband's support. Now the struggle really begins. The kids, the bills, the home: "This was not one of those `Oh, ha, sorry it's such a mess' moments. It was dangerously messy. It was call-child-services-doubt-the-mental-health-of-the-mother messy. It was TLC-reality-programming messy. We cohabited with dust bunnies I knew by name..." That's a funny passage, and there is a good amount of humor and some real wit within the text, but there's also a fair amount of darkness and desperation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By misplaced cajun on April 23, 2013
Format: Paperback
Jenny Lipkin is worn out... and stressed out. No one in the house is sleeping thanks to Rose, the new baby, and husband Harry has been working super late hours thanks to slow business. One night, Harry calls to say he's stopping for cigarettes on his way home and disappears. Harry's mother is ready to call the police (who inform her that there's nothing they can do unless foul play is suspected) but Jenny suspects her hubs could be on a gambling bender - something he's been known to do. In a desperate moment, Jenny plans to launch herself off the Brooklyn Bridge. Fortunately, she changes her mind. Unfortunately, it's too late. But Jenny is saved by a rusalka - a mermaid - who helps her to find her way.

I knew I was going to love this book from the very first page. Amy Shearn has a great style and voice! (I'd include a passage but I think I'd be attempting to include the whole book!) On the very first page Jenny talks about her husband leaving and wonders why he didn't take the dog with him while also berating him mentally for not changing the hall lightbulb before he left.

In addition to the snarky components (that I'm always a sucker for - definitely says something about me), Shearn has a magical way of turning a phrase. Her writing is quite pretty (not purple!) and wonderfully illustrates Jenny's life and surroundings.

A lot of THE MERMAID OF BROOKLYN is about family and motherhood. I don't have kids, but Jenny's narration as a whole is something I can personally sympathize with even when she talks babies. I laughed out loud more than once at her very real portrayal of mommyhood (all the dirty and stinky parts that folks sometimes gloss over). And I truly felt for her when she was at her worst.

Shearn combines great humor and emotion in her latest, making THE MERMAID OF BROOKLYN a hilarious and heartfelt read - definitely recommended for both moms and non-moms (or not-yet-moms).
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