Karen’s Pick of the Week: The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

Her red torso, decorated with tattoos, is attached to a large powerful tail covered with shimmering black and silver scales.  Her head is covered in black dreadlocks infested with various types of sea creatures.  When Black fisherman David sees her peeking from the waves near the rocks off Murder Bay, he has no idea of the heart-wrenching love story that is just beginning. The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey is set in 1976 in the Caribbean.  Roffey, who grew up in Trinidad, was inspired by Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, mermaid myths and Neruda’s poem about a true story of a fishing competition.

 The mermaid Aycayia traveled the Caribbean for at least a thousand years, avoiding men whenever possible until she discovered David, humming and strumming his guitar in his boat.  One day she comes to visit David and instead encounters a tasty octopus at the end of a hook.  Fisherman in a competition have caught the catch of a lifetime.  Strung up on the jetty as a prize that will net the fishermen big bucks, Aycayia is left alone by a drunken guard and David is able to rescue her.

Monique Roffey

The beauty of this story is that Aycayia, now out of the sea, begins to change back into the woman she was prior to being cursed. David helps Aycayia through this transformation with the help of the white lady of the island, Miss Rain, and her biracial deaf son, Reggie.  As the story unfolds, the reader is immersed in the history and culture of the Caribbean island and its people.

This is nothing like The Little Mermaid love story popularized by Disney!  Recommended for readers of fantasy or literary fiction who like their novels bittersweet and atmospheric.

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