the mermaid of brooklyn

In tv land, there are generally two roles for the thirty-something woman: the (sexy) childless career woman or the (sexy) mother of a (sexy) teenager, a decidedly more supporting role. Motherhood dominates a commercial landscape for everything from paper towels to snack food, toothpaste, and air fresheners, but sustained storylines about parenting little ones are few and far between.

I posted a musing about this on facebook once, and a tired mom, admitting her own preference for escapist entertainment responded, Who wants to watch stories about real life?

I do, I thought. Not stories about diapers and crying, of course, but honest narrative about motherhood, relationships, change, identity, sex, self image, community, family, depression, joy, struggle, work, worth, meaning? Absolutely.

The Mermaid of Brooklyn is that story seldom told, a rare jewel and rough diamond both.

The sophomore novel from Brooklyn dwelling writer Amy Shearn is loosely based on her own great-grandmother, Jenny Lipkin, whose husband disappears one night without a word. He goes out for cigarettes and fails to return, leaving Jenny with their infant and toddler, his dog, and a host of questions.

The story takes place one scorching summer in Park Slope. It could be an enjoyable beach read, but it's no frivolous fluff piece. Shearn writes with honest insight and biting wit about new motherhood and the inevitable trials that set us off, set us adrift, or set us free.

Lipkin is a fascinating protagonist, because although she is not tremendously likable, she is strikingly relatable, and as a reader, you do want to see her succeed  The book takes a novel turn into the waters of magical realism, a charming plot device that serves the story and doesn't take away from its more down-to-earth enchantments.

I don't want to give anything away, but I especially liked the sensuality that Shearn imbues Jenny with as she re-learns to navigate her own body even while sharing so much of it with her young family. It was tender and true picture of life-after-baby.

Darkly funny, smart, and resonant, The Mermaid of Brooklyn tells a true tale about relationships, parenthood, second-guessing and starting over, even when today looks exactly like yesterday and the day before that.

Who is telling good stories about motherhood--or of women as more than romantic leads--in books, television, or movies? Are you reading/watching anything good lately?

TLC Book Tours hooked me up with a book, but these opinions are all mine. But you knew that;) Affiliate links, yo.
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