Stucky-French follows her story collection (The First Paper Girl in Red Oak, Iowa, 2000) with a soggy first novel about family relationships and synchronized swimming.
France has been happily living in Indianapolis ever since she traded in her husband Ray for her “downwardly mobile” high-school boyfriend-cum-artist Bruno, and her social work career for a job at the gallery Womenspace. But when a call comes from her father, North, in Tampa, to say that her mother has disappeared, the problem isn’t just that of a missing wife. North seems unconcerned about Grendy, who he claims has run off; what worries him is who will take care of six-year-old Theo, the odd fatherless child of Beauvais, France’s black sheep sister who was killed in an automobile accident just when she was getting her life back on track. When France flies to Tampa, she finds not only a strangely distant North and a needy Theo but a disgruntled group of aging women who perform underwater wearing mermaid tails at Mermaid Springs. The “Mermaids of Yesteryear,” or the “Merhags,” as they call themselves, need Grendy, who, re-donning her tail at age 60, snagged the star role in their new production, “Mermaids on the Moon.” France has her own problems, hoping to become a partner in the gallery back home but terrified that the owner, Naomi, will be furious to find out that France’s most profitable artistic discovery, Bruno’s life-sized dolls, are actually the creation of a male artist. All ends well when France confronts her father, relishes her time with Theo, confesses to Naomi, and rises to the challenge of rehearsing her mother’s part as an astronaut in the mermaid extravaganza.
A quirkily convincing but ultimately stagnant tale.