If you’re expecting something akin to Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid, you will be in for a disappointment. Lydia Millet’s Mermaids in Paradise is both hilarious and heart-wrenching. Narrator Deb has just gotten married to Chip, her positive, gregarious partner. They are on their honeymoon in the Caribbean when they become involved in a mermaid sighting, a questionable death, corporate greed, a kidnapping, and a myriad of other activities. The supporting cast of characters includes best friend Gina (“Everything’s performance art with her, she lives in a world of irony”), a hipster Tokyo VJ, a munition-loving ex-Navy SEAL, a parrotfish expert, a “Freudian” psychologist and his life partner.
Millet’s storytelling is entertaining and amusing, with philosophical discussion underlying the levity. People see the world differently and perceptions form belief. This is demonstrated time and again throughout the novel, beginning with the first sighting of the mermaids, which in itself defies belief. All in all, this is a very satisfactory novel with a strong, thought-provoking ending.