When I began The Pisces, I didn’t expect to become immersed in the wild world of mermaid/merman erotica, but that’s exactly what happened — and despite the extreme peculiarity of the situation, Broder presents a novel that sublimely entangles elements of magical realism with discussions of love and intimacy.
The Pisces by Melissa Broder tells the story of PHD researcher Lucy, who is completing her dissertation on Sappho. After her longtime boyfriend leaves her, she dashes off to Los Angeles, where she house-sits for her sister and watches her diabetic and beloved dog, Dominic. Lucy frequents group meetings for women who are addicted to love (and are bad at it), as well as having Tinder hook-ups with some shady LA dudes. One night, Lucy wanders over to the seaside, where she stumbles across Theo, a merman and engages in a passionate and arresting love affair with him.
Throughout the novel, it was difficult to like Lucy — she came across as self-indulgent and with a little-to-no grasp of reality. Despite this, I enjoyed her complexity. Lucy is going through an existential crisis, and witnessing her state of mind evolve was utterly compelling. Seeing the rest of Lucy’s therapy group fall off of the wagon and then bounce back (and then fall off again) was enthralling. Lucy’s heartbreak sees her resort back to primal instincts, where she isn’t so much chasing the feeling of love, but to fulfil her sexual needs — especially with her little regard for safety.
Something I found strange was that Lucy never asked Theo about life in the sea. I mean, if I was with a merman, it’s probably one of the first things I would do. Maybe her lack of questions was a testament to how selfish of a character she was. I’m convinced that the little details about Theo's life in the sea were omitted to convince readers of Lucy’s selfishness.
If I had to change one thing about the novel, it would be the graphic sex scenes, particularly the ones involving Lucy and her merman. The descriptions were so cringy that they actually made me laugh. If you’re reading the book in public, prepare to feel incredibly awkward.
Despite these minor criticisms I have of the novel, The Pisces exhibited moments of brilliance. Though the story is absolutely nuts, Broder's writing is engaging and bewitching. She questions the norms associated with love and intimacy in a way that’s not only extremely weird but ever-so-genius.
Release date: May 3rd 2018 by Bloomsbury Publishing