Review: “The Drowned Mermaid” by Christopher Barzak

3 of 5 stars.

The fantasy elements to this story are incidental, if not completely metaphorical. This is a tale about the rift that comes between Helena and Paul when there daughter, Jordan, disappears from their lives. Not knowing where her daughter is or even if she is yet alive has led to Helena having nightly dreams of rescuing Jordan, or negotiating with kidnappers for her daughter etc. Helena even romanticizes that Jordan, once a surfer, may have gone to join the mer who had appeared at the Southern California coast years earlier. She needs closure, unlike her husband who saw Jordan at the meth house she’d gravitated toward after dropping out of UCLA and before she dropping completely off the grid.

Helena finds a battered and barely alive mermaid washed up on shore whom she takes home to nurse back to health. But for whose benefit? The struggle between what the mermaid needs and Helena’s motivations and actions is heart-breaking, but beautiful in its own right.

This story appears in the latest anthology edited by Paula Guran, Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, published by Prime Books. “The Drowned Mermaid” first appeared in Realms of Fantasy, June 2003.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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