This was the kind of book that pulled me into it from the moment I saw it as I walked down the book aisle at target. The cover attracted me to the point that I immediately ignored all the other books around it. I love books and seeing a cover with books was just so intriguing to the eyes. Ironic enough that this book would pull ME in the way it did because the same happens to the main character in his journey throughout the story. He is fascinated by its old binding and worn out cover that has survived centuries. The author, Erika Swyler, does a fantastic job in keeping up with a book lovers dream of appreciate books throughout the story. So imagine this: you, a person that loves books, reading about another person so loves books just as much as you. Totally relatable! Another thing I found interesting was how there are basically two stories in one. It is a constant shift of past vs present in every other chapter. While this could be confusing for some people to keep up, I do believe that the author did a splendid job in making it simple. After the first two chapters, the shift almost comes naturally and it keeps you wanting to find out more.
At the start of the story, the main character is introduced, Simon. I didn’t really know what to make of Simon and even after finishing the book, I still don’t know what to make of him. Is he obsessive? A bit crazy? A concerned brother? He was the character that I had the hardest time decoding. Just know that the present part of the book takes place around him. Later, we are introduced to his younger sister Enola and her boyfriend, Doyle. These two are modern day circus performers. Enola being a tarot card reader and Doyle being classified as an “Electric Boy”. Then there is Frank and his daughter Alice, their neighbors. Both families have seen each other grow up and have experienced joy and sorrow especially after Simon and Enola’s parents died at such a young age. The last character of interest here is none other than an elderly man by the name of Martin Churchwarry, who not only has his very own bookshop but is the person that first discovered the old book that is later sent to Simon. All these characters are tied together in a way that they didn’t even consider possible till the very end of the story when all the connections are made. To keep this summary simple, Simon begins to uncover this curse that his family has been facing for the past two centuries. A curse that takes a lineage of women on July 24 by drowning without fail. Not only taking them but their loved ones eventually die from extreme sorrow, leaving behind children to grow up without parents. Now the interesting thing about this is that all these women have been known to be professional swimmers that can hold their breath under water for an insane amount of time (10 minutes if not more). All these women have performed in circuses for years and out of the blue they drown…odd. So here is Simon trying to figure out a way to stop the curse before it takes his sister. He receives an extremely old, worn out book from a man he has never met in his life. The reason for this is because Simon’s grandmothers name is in the book, therefore tracing the family tree back to him. Enola randomly shows up out of the blue after being MIA for years, living her life far away from the place that took both her parents. Her return doesn’t come without its strange occurrences. She is deeply invested in her deck of tarot cards. It is to the point that she is even shuffling them with her fingers inside her skirt pockets. Both Enola and Simon are worried about what could happen to either of them. With an old book, lots of research, and a deck of tarot cards that could potentially date back to the late 1700s, they are both on edge trying to stop history from repeating itself.
This part of the story is set to take place in the late 1700s and it is meant to introduce the origin of the drowning women. It is where the reader must come to an understanding that there is a potential curse in the making. Here we see the original performers and the author of the book that Simon grows to obsess over.
Amos- the mute wild boy/ apprentice fortune teller
Evangeline- the mermaid/ later made into apprentice seer
Peabody- the man in charge of the circus and the writer of the famous old book
Madame Ryzhkova- the original tarot card reader/original fortune teller
A lot of misfortune falls upon these group of people. They are hit with natural disasters, fall outs between each other, and death. The creepy thing is that it was all foreseen by Ryzkova and her cards. Yet no one wanted to believe her that this “mermaid” that they welcomed into the group would bring them their doom. Obviously I don’t want to spoil much of the story and the tragedies they go through, so I won’t say more than I already have. It is fascinating to me that not only was I able to read the present but the past as well. Every-time I read the past, this sort of eerie feeling came over me. It was almost as if I was reading something I wasn’t suppose too and how wicked cool is it when an author is able to make you feel that way by just reading words from paper?
I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews online about this book. Mostly what I noticed was that people were complaining that there were no actual mermaids in the book. So if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m so sorry to disappoint. This book highlights the extraordinary gifts of performers, the significance of books in the past as well as the present, and the unbreakable pull we all have toward certain people. This is a book that features mystery, historical fiction, along with magic and curses.I definitely would recommend this book for all it’s worth. 5/5