#32: The Seas by Samantha Hunt

I have no clue what I read, but I liked it.

The description from Goodreads:

The narrator of The Seas lives in a tiny, remote, alcoholic, cruel seaside town. An occasional chambermaid, granddaughter to a typesetter, and daughter to a dead man, awkward and brave, wayward and willful, she is in love (unrequited) with an Iraq War veteran thirteen years her senior. She is convinced that she is a mermaid. What she does to ease the pain of growing up lands her in prison. What she does to get out is the stuff of legend. In the words of writer Michelle Tea, The Seas is “creepy and poetic, subversive and strangely funny, [and] a phenomenal piece of literature.”

I like settings near the ocean.  Not tropical, warm water oceans.  Icy cold, grey water, you’re-going-to-die oceans.  Settings where the sea itself becomes a character and changes the people that live nearby.  I like the violence, the way the water affects the weather and how the weather changes the waves.  There is power in the sea and characters can’t change it if they fight it.  You either let the water change you or you leave.

Our nameless narrator is nineteen years old and she’s convinced she’s a mermaid.  He father was lost to the sea years ago, yet she and her mother have hope that he will return.  They both know this is a false hope, yet to acknowledge the helplessness of it will confirm that he is gone.  Forever.  Dead. 

Our narrator knows she is a mermaid and that her father had to return to the sea and is waiting for her.  He must have grown legs to be with her mother, and she will someday lose hers so she can return to the sea and be with him.

But our narrator is in love with Jude.  A mortal.  Thirteen years older than she is.  Nineteen years 0against thirty two.  Her love for Jude is making her sick, blind, crazy.  They spend hours and days together, but he will not love her.  He sees the lovesick in every molecule of her body, but he will not love her back.  He keeps her close, but it doesn’t feel cruel.

So she waits and wonders.  She knows the tales of mermaids and mortals.  She waits for her father to return, wondering if she will sacrifice herself or Jude.  What will make her tail appear?  What will make Jude love her?  Someone must die, for that’s what the tales have taught us.

She waits.  She gets sicker.  Her mother aches for her, not knowing what to do.  Her mother knows she’s not a mermaid and begs her to leave Jude, to leave the island, to leave this small life that is slowly drowning her.

But our narrator cannot leave.  She is held tight.  She is tethered to Jude and the sea.  Her father will come.  Jude will love her.  Her tail will appear.

***

This all sounds like a wonderful folktale, yes?  Only it’s not written that way and I was confused and delighted by it.  Hunt writes this as straight up realistic fiction.  As the book starts, I thought our narrator was just hoping she’s a mermaid.  The town hates her.  She’s an outcast and has been tormented since she was a child.  Just as we wish we were all adopted children and some day our rich parents will show up to claim us, to tell us we are princesses and princes, to show us all that we have, our narrator waits for the sea.  She knows who her parents are, but she also knows she is a mermaid.

I was fascinated by the narrator.  I was startled to find out she was nineteen because she sounds much younger when the book starts.  Throughout the book I wondered if she was cognitively impaired.  The things she says and does don’t make any sense, and yet Hunt is so consistent that I found myself agreeing with our narrator throughout.  She must be a mermaid.  It doesn’t make sense if she’s not.  The sea will destroy everyone.  She is going blind.  Jude must love her or die.

None of this should have worked, yet I gave into it.  I let Hunt and her sea pull me in and I didn’t fight it.  Our narrator wasn’t impaired or broken or crazy or wrong.

I knew something had to happen, but I didn’t know what.  Was she crazy?  Would she be forced to deal with reality?  Was it all a metaphor?  Was she a mermaid?  Was I reading a fairy tale?  What was going on?

I was confused and dizzy and I enjoyed every moment.

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3 responses to “#32: The Seas by Samantha Hunt

  1. Pingback: pyrajane’s review #32: The Seas by Samantha Hunt « Cannonball Read IV

  2. I LOVED THIS BOOOK!!!!!! There was SO much going on in it. Samantha Hunt is amazing!! Thanks for posting this.

  3. I wanted to find someone who read it so we could explain it to each other. I’m betting other people have read it and been all “WTF???” and tossed it across the room. I don’t know why it worked for me, but I really liked it.

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