Audiobook Review: Mermaids by Patty Dann

Audiobook Review: Mermaids by Patty DannMermaids by Patty Dann
Narrator: Elizabeth Evans
Length: 4 hrs, 6 mins
Published by Audible on April 9, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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"Mrs. Flax was happiest when she was leaving a place, but I wanted to stay put long enough to fall down crazy and hear the Word of God. I always called my mother Mrs. Flax."So begins this extraordinary first novel about one wild year in the life of fourteen-year-old Charlotte Flax, when she and her sister Kate move with Mrs. Flax into a sleepy 1960's Massachusetts town. Mrs. Flax is a woman who wears polka-dot dresses and serves hors d'oeuvres for dinner every night, and Kate is a child who basically wants to be a fish.And then there's Charlotte, who in Patty Dann's hands, is transformed into a young woman of infinite whim and variety. Charlotte's main ambition in life is to become a saint, preferably martyred, though she's Jewish. She's smitten with the shy young caretaker at the convent at the top of the hill. Dann has created a young girl who accepts the unkindness of the mad universe in which she's whirling and takes it on with a savage glee.Charlotte Flax is like no one you have ever met--and someone you know very well.

Fact #1: Mermaids came out in 1967.

Fact #2: Mermaids is not about mermaids.

Fact #3: Mermaids was made into a movie starring Cher as Mrs. Flax, the wild mother, Winona Ryder as the older daughter, and Christina Ricci as the younger daughter. Though I haven’t seen the movie, this is the perfect cast for this book, which ought to tell you something.

Guys, this book was strange. Mostly, it was actually a pretty normal YA plotline, not that YA really existed back in the day, when I guess this must have been the shortest adult novel ever, since I don’t imagine it would have been given to children. The Flaxes are a dysfunctional family (is there any other kind?) headed by Mrs. Flax. She’s a single parent, with two girls, Charlotte and Kate, both with different fathers. The family moves constantly, whenever Mrs. Flax’s romance du jour turns south.

Unsurprisingly, Charlotte holds a lot of resentment for Mrs. Flax, which is what she calls her all the time. Children tend, most often to admire their parents and want to be like them or to want to be the total opposite. Charlotte’s the latter sort, only, for her, rebelling means religion, high-necked dresses, and a desire to become a saint (even though her family is Jewish). Her little asides about saints are hilarious and, oh my, how I can picture Winona Ryder being perfection at this. At the same time, though, Charlotte’s actually got a lot in common with her mother, and even feels jealous of her mother’s popularity. Also unsurprising is that Charlotte has some daddy issues. She has a picture of his shoes and hopes to identify him this way (lol, gurl, not happening).

For all the tension between Charlotte and Mrs. Flax, the family’s actually fairly loving overall. Charlotte’s not thrilled about the situation, but she’s also a teen and that tends to go along with moping. Both Charlotte and Mrs. Flax dote on Kate, who ties them together into a family unit. Mrs. Flax’s endless string of affairs has clearly affected Charlotte’s psyche in a really unhealthy way, but she’s not intentionally abusive. Some people just aren’t good parents unfortunately.

Mermaids is about Charlotte transitioning from a girl to a woman, and hoping that the family will finally stay in one place for a while. Fourteen-year-old Charlotte, daddy issues hard at work, crushes hard on twenty-nine-year-old Joe. You guys, I was super not cool with the romance plot or how the ending went freaking bananas, all of which I must spoiler tag. View Spoiler » Go home, book. You’re drunk.

The audiobook was a really pleasant way to read the story, especially since it was only four hours. That took no time at all. (Well, actually, it took 4 hours.) Aaaanyway, I thought Elizabeth Evans did a good job portraying Charlotte, both the naivete and the know-it-all superiority sides of her character. She does a convincing teen voice, without sounding like an older woman trying to sound like a teen.

I would kind of like to watch the movie now, but it’s not on Netflix Watch Instantly. I shall have to see if I can rustle it up somewhere. This was a weird, creepy, and entertaining read.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

don't let me fall in love and want to do disgusting things

3 responses to “Audiobook Review: Mermaids by Patty Dann”

  1. Ashton says:

    The movie is so great! It used to come on Lifetime, and I would watch it constantly. JAKE RYAN PLAYS JOE!!! OH MAN. He is so gorgeous, and it makes sense why she had the hots for him. I did, too.

  2. How on earth did I never know that the (amazing) Winona Ryder/Christina Ricci/Cher film was based on a book? I was absolutely in love with the movie when I was young, and I still think it’s pretty great. It’s one that I watch every time I see it playing on TV. I’m excited to read the book and do a comparison!
    Rose @ literary wanderlove recently posted…Review – World After by Susan EeMy Profile

  3. Patty Dann says:

    In fact, the book was published in 1987. It was translated into seven languages.

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