February 27, 2024

The Moorings of Mackerel Sky

Review by
A lushly crafted tale of a Maine fishing village cursed by a mermaid, The Moorings of Mackerel Sky is a debut to submerge yourself in.
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Mackerel Sky hasn’t had a good fishing season in centuries. Not since its founder betrayed the mermaid who captured his heart, and she cursed the Maine fishing village in retaliation. That grand tragedy begat many others, but no curse is absolute, even one cast by the most vengeful scion of the relentless ocean. And as young Leo Beale’s alcohol-fueled rebellion against his opiate-dependent mother leads him to the shelter of town elder Myra Kelley; Manon Perle quilts her way out of the miasma of grief over her daughter, born with her legs fused together like a mermaid’s tail and dead far too young; and the local high school’s star pitcher, Derrick Stowe, falls clandestinely in love, the mermaid’s magic may finally be at an ebb.

The Moorings of Mackerel Sky is a book to submerge yourself in. Debut novelist MZ’s storytelling does not flow in straight lines. Rather, it eddies, lingering in tiny moments in the present before transporting readers back to the story’s headwaters, hundreds of years ago. She explores the past in loving detail, filling every page with lushly crafted, often poetic prose. The backstory seems, at times, irrelevant to the modern-day plotline, inserted more for world building than narrative necessity. However, MZ does nothing without purpose. Every half-finished historical anecdote and ancillary encounter contributes to the larger story, like a school of fish following an insistent current.This nonlinear structure is unified by an underlying theme of foreignness. Humans are creatures of the land, whose trespasses on water are tolerated at the mermaids’ whim, while the mermaids themselves are antithetical to land. At its core, The Moorings of Mackerel Sky is both a tragedy and a romance, a tale of humans and merfolk struggling to live and love in each other’s domains, and how they all end up moored to the liminal space of the shore.

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