Author: Elizabeth Fama
Pages: 304 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Published on: September 4th 2012
Source: Pinoy Book Tours (Thanks!)
Buy the book: Amazon / Barnes and Noble
Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.
Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.
(Summary from Goodreads)
Mermaid have always been a big fascination for me. I just love them. As a child, Ariel had been my favorite Disney Princess and A Part of Your World was my theme song. But then as I grew up, I realized that the mermaid fairytale that Disney fed me wasn't the truth. That I wasn't actually looking at the real story, so I looked and looked until I came across the Grimm brothers' fairytale and I died just a little bit. The Little Mermaid literally had the saddest ending in the world. Ariel was left with no prince and I was left heartbroken. And now, I'm pretty much obsessed with mermaids and that's why I found Monstrous Beauty so captivating. The world Elizabeth Fama has created was a such a unique and fresh contribution to the mermaid myth. There was something so powerfully moving about Monstrous Beauty that made me want to simultaneously burst into tears and clap with joy. I was an absolute mess while reading this.
Syrenka is basically the catalyst of everything that happens in this book. Just to state the obvious, Syrenka is a mermaid. But she isn't your average sweet, little mermaid -oh no, she isn't- Syrenka is a monstrously beautiful creature that should come off as nightmarish but has an oddly appealing beauty to her that just makes her so captivating. Her goal in life was to finally become a mortal because when you're a mermaid, you basically have no soul and you live forever and in every way possible, she wanted out of that. You can really see just how much she wanted to be human, having to live thousands and thousands of years watching people die is just heartbreaking. But as always, getting what you want never comes with a cheap price... For Syrenka or any mermaid to become human, the must get pregnant to retrieve their soul and eat a human being's lungs to be able to get her own. These were the parts where things got really graphic but even if they were pretty gorey, they were still appealing in that sort of bloody sense. I can't tell you what happens next because I'll end up spoiling a bunch of things for you but all you need to know is that Syrenka's story managed to make me cry a river -yes, a river- because you will really see what true sacrifice is and what any person is capable of doing to save the person they love.
Hester comes in after a hundred years and so after Syrenka's life. She's trying to figure out why every woman in her family has died after a few days of giving birth to their child, just like her mother, her grandmother, her great-grandmother, so on and so forth. Hester is a really brave and courageous character because she goes through all these trials and "missions" without giving up and I really commend her for that. Her determination to solve that mystery of her family and how she is connected with Syrenka really builds the whole story and will keep you guessing until when you read it you'll go "Oh my god. Mind-blown."
Elizabeth Fama really weaves an intricate pattern that consists of complex and fleshed out characters that you will love and sympathize with. I never thought I'd ever relate with a mermaid but apparently I could. Monstrous Beauty brims with love, passion, darkness, lust and sadness that will all but consume you. It was equal parts terrifying and beautiful. If you want to try out a new and unique book about mermaids, I gladly recommend this one to you.