Thank you to the lovely people at Tin House for my copy of The Seas by Samantha Hunt. All thoughts and images are my own.
Title: The Seas
Author: Samantha Hunt
Genre: Modern Mermaid Mythology
Pub date: November 1, 2004 – re-released July 10, 2018
Read if you like: magical realism, The Bell Jar, Han’s Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.”
The Seas is a perfect read for a dreary fall day – curl up in a blanket and immerse yourself in this dark tale. If you let it, it will completely suck you in – parts of it read like poetry, parts of it like a moody fairytale, and other parts like the diary of a depressed teenage girl. I read it all in one sitting and would recommend you do the same.
Our narrator is a mermaid, or so she says. Her father told her so when she was young, and in this, her coming of age story, that is still her reality. As a mermaid, she grows up through the struggles most young women face: of a first love, of the betrayal felt when your family members reveal themselves to be imperfect, of the desire to get out of town for something bigger and better because that’s what everyone is supposed to want.
Hunt expects a certain degree of intelligence from her reader – she leaves many questions unanswered and some key events unexplained. It’s up to you, the reader, to infer what you will of the situation. It’s a beautiful mess of imagery of water and language – waves and letters crashing together, myths of mermaids and stories of people in the main character’s life tied together.
Our narrator is fascinating but incredibly unreliable. This book was my book club’s selection for September, and during our discussion last night, I realized that there were elements of her story that I took for granted as true that very much may not be. It was interesting to see who perceived what elements of her story as a lie. And to realize who else in her life may be lying to her – who’s to say the doctors she visits know what they’re talking about? But, purposefully on Hunt’s part, there is rarely a right answer. In our narrator’s world, all of what she tells us is true. What’s the difference between what she believes and what exists if it all feel real to her?
I’d recommend this book for any reader who has ever felt like an outcast, who has ever been blinded by love, or who has wanted to get out without knowing how or where to go.
Interested in The Seas? Click here to support your local indie bookstore or here to buy it on Amazon.
SYNOPSIS: (AS TOLD BY THE BACK OF THE BOOK)
Ever since her father walked into the ocean eleven years ago, a young woman waits for him to return. Life in her coastal town is decidedly bleak. Her mother spends her time quietly monitoring the ocean for her missing husband. Her grandfather passes the days typesetting dictionaries that will never be printed. Rather than suffer the contortions of becoming a woman and accepting her father’s apparent suicide, the narrator convinces herself she is a mermaid and escapes her dreary, northern town life via a fantastic myth. When not chambermaiding at decrepit motels and dreaming of becoming a scientist, she dedicates her time to falling obsessively in love with Jude, a drinker and a sailor twice her age who bears more than a passing similarity to her father. She knows Jude has a troubling secret that will, when revealed, help to fulfill the narrator’s peculiar sense of her identity. Part modern gothic, part coming-of-age story, The Seas explores the very real possibilities in the unreal, straddling the horizons between the ocean and the land; literature and science; wishing and reality.