When We Believed in Mermaids Tests the Waters of Family

Your quest is powerful. You needn’t apologize for the space it takes.

When We Believed in MermaidsBarbara O’Neal

My Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

In Summary of When We Believed in Mermaids

Her sister has been dead for fifteen years when she sees her on the TV news…

Kit Bianci goes on a search for her long-lost sister – who she thought had died in a terrorist attack 15 years before – when she believes there is evidence that she is still alive. This journey takes her to Auckland, New Zealand to figure out the truth behind Josie’s disappearance. Kit discovers secrets along the way that force her to grapple with their past of trauma and a neglectful upbringing. The answers she searches for may not be the ones she wants to hear, and she must reconcile with the past.

Warning: sexual abuse, PTSD, natural disasters, neglectful childhood

Fantastic descriptions of setting; escapism!Slow moving and often feels anticlimactic
Successfully builds a family story with surprising secrets“Instant love” trope in Kit’s romance not truly believable
Switching between Kit and Josie’s perspectives works for the storySome parts seem unnecessary – like the Sapphire House

A girl without a mother who protects her is a girl at the mercy of the world.

The Review

Despite my featured picture and the cover/title of this book, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a light summer read.

Yes, When We Believed in Mermaids makes sense to read in the summertime because the New Zealand setting and surfing makes readers crave the water and sun. However, this novel’s conflict is based on much heavier emotions and trauma.

My absolute favorite thing about this book is how Barbara O’Neal uses imagery in her descriptions of New Zealand. I can vividly imagine the scenery and food, and the calming nature of New Zealand helps offset the intensity of the traumatic events in the Bianci sisters’ lives.

Truly, the setting building is *chef’s kiss!*

The plot is interesting and I feel like we learn a lot about the character’s along the way, but I felt like the climax was more subtle than I wished. If you choose to read this book, be ready for an emphasis on family drama, parental neglect, broken trust, and rekindling of relationships over a plot-driven novel.

Perhaps one of the reasons this novel felt slow to me is because I was unable to relate to the experiences of the characters. If you can, this book will speak to you.

Overall, When We Believed in Mermaids is a novel that speaks to the strength of sibling relationships – especially of sisters – and the sanctity of love. It is an emotional, but ultimately hopeful read, that will appeal to the contemplative, sentimental reader.

The Maidens Book Information

  • Published: 2019
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
  • ISBN:  9781978670020
  • Format: Paperback
  • Length: 348 pages

Learn About & Support the Author – Barbara O’Neal


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