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The Mermaid of Brooklyn: A Novel Paperback

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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: 8 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #533,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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I read this book and I enjoyed the heck out of it.
Olive Jackson
The Mermaid of Brooklyn by Amy Shearn is a story that fully explores life's ups and downs, struggles, parenthood, love, and everything in between the cracks.
Sheri Newton
From beginning to end you will want to know how it turns out and will enjoy every page along the journey.
Andrea at Adventures in All Things Food

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By D L 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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9 of 11 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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1 of 1 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Diane VINE VOICE on April 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
What initially appealed to me about this novel was its Brooklyn setting. Jenny Lipkin is married to Harry, a man who works for his family's failing candy supply business. They have two daughters, preschooler Betty and baby Rose.

They live in a cramped (but expensive) Park Slope walk-up, and they seem to argue a lot. Harry has a gambling problem and feels he is meant to do better things. One day Harry calls and says he is stopping to get cigarettes and doesn't return. Jenny is a little worried, but to be honest, Harry has done this before; gone on a gambling binge, and returned flush with enough money to buy off Jenny's anger.

But this time feels diferent. Harry's brother and mother seem to be more worried than usual, and there is money missing from the business. Jenny is angry, but she has two girls to care for, and has to figure out a way to make ends meet without Harry's sales commissions coming in.

Jenny takes the kids to the park everyday, where she hangs out with her good friend Laura and Laura's daughter while they swoon over Sam the Cute Dad, whom all of the mommies have a crush on. The playground scenes are so real, and as I pass the city playgrounds and parks I see these women and wonder what it is like to raise young children in the city. Thanks to Shearn, I now have some insight.

I had two children 18 months apart, and Shearn expertly captures the claustrophobia of two young children and a mom stuck inside. Trying to keep them fed, entertained, bathed and put to bed is exhausting, let alone doing in in a tiny, hot apartment with toys everywhere.

One day, Jenny reaches the breaking point. She makes a bad decision, and this is where it gets really interesting.
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