BookMark: The Mermaid's Sister By Carrie Anne Noble

Feb 25, 2016

Reviewer Kris Allen and the cover of "The Mermaid's Sister"

“The Mermaid’s Sister” won the young adult category in Amazon.com’s Breakthrough Novel of the Year contest in 2014. As part of the prize for the contest, Amazon published the novel in 2015.

The author, Carrie Anne Noble lives near Montoursville, PA.  She set her novel on Lanfair Mountain, in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, in the year 1870.  It was an era when folk magic was still practiced in rural areas of the state.  And there’s plenty of magic, and many elements of fantasy in this romantic tale.

It surrounds two teenage girls, Maren and Clara, adopted separately, in very unusual circumstances, and raised as sisters by a woman they call Auntie Verity.  Verity is an expert in the use of herbs as medicine. But when Maren, who has always loved the water, shows signs of growing scales and webs between her fingers, there is nothing Auntie Verity can do about it. The 16-year-old girl is turning into a mermaid. Clara, her devoted but entirely human sister, must get Maren to the ocean before she dies for want of sea water.

Enter a young man named O’Neil. He’s the teenage son of an old family friend named Scarff.  The two men come to the mountain to visit now and then, in the gypsy-like wagon from which they sell all manner of common and exotic wares: from pots and pans to beautifully embroidered shoes.

O’Neil agrees to help Clara take Maren to the sea: a long and treacherous journey by wagon from Western Pennsylvania.  And along they way, they must keep Maren safe in a container of salted water, and hidden from prying eyes – especially those of a traveling carnival that would love to have a mermaid as their prized attraction.

Their adventure has all the elements of an engaging young adult story: teenagers on a life-or-death mission, colorful but shady characters, desperate danger and a love triangle.  It’s wrapped in enough magic and mythical characters to bring it into the realm of fantasy, but not too far from the culture of rural Pennsylvania in the 1870’s.

While most young adult books are for teenagers, I think the colorful, magical nature of this one will hold a lot of appeal for preteens as well. The lovable antics of the family’s um, unusual pet will keep you smiling.  And the sounds and sights, even the smells of 19th century Pennsylvania are beautifully rendered in the book. While the plot, and especially it’s dénouement will keep readers of all ages turning the pages.

“The Mermaid’s Sister” is an engaging and delightful read.  Bring it to the beach with you this summer.  And you might not look at those waves in quite the same way again.

"The Mermaid's Sister" is written by Carrie Anne Noble and published by Amazon Digital Services.

Reviewer Kristine Allen is WPSU-FM's program director.