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Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West: Friday Flashback Review

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cover of Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West3 Stars
Renata DeChavannes is reeling from personal loss. She runs home to her grandmother in Alabama, seeking answers to questions about her mother.

I don't have a lot to say except that I can't help but feel like this has been done before. Younger generation, digging in the past, looking for parents' secrets. Sound familiar? I'm thinking of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and this book is nowhere near as good as that one.

I liked most of the present-day characters. Renata was pretty funny, but apparently pretty dense, but Honora, Gladys, and Isabella were tons of fun. Unfortunately, they weren't really the focus of the story. The focus is on Renata's mother Shelby and her broken relationship with Renata's father, Louie. Everyone talks about Shelby like the only reason she didn't walk on water was because she didn't want to, but once the past starts coming out, I couldn't stand her.

I really don't get what was up with Renata. She's about 30 years old, but you would think that she was five. She seems to know absolutely nothing about family history, even when she's directly involved. An explanation was given, but it was pretty weak. And everyone's supposed to be telling her these old family stories, but when they start talking, it's like Renata's not even there. Instead of, "You weren't a very pretty baby," it's "Renata wasn't a very pretty baby." What's up with that?

The chapters float around between several of the present-day characters. Some of them are titled, "Honora says..." and that made it pretty clear who was talking. But sometimes that was left off and I would think Renata was telling a story only to find out that it was her father. Confusing.

I'm making this sound bad, and it really wasn't. It was decent but forgettable. If it sounds like something you're interested in though, go ahead and dig in. It's not a book to regret reading. It's just a book that I'll forget.

Reviewed September 20, 2009

Read an excerpt.

Find author Michael Lee West on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy Mermaids in the Basement at

Friday Flashback Reviews, a feature at The Introverted Reader

Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

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