Melissa Broder

The Pisces


Review by Kala Wahl

Melissa Broder’s debut novel, The Pisces, answers the question of exactly what you should do to fill the void after going ‘on break’ with your partner of eight years. The answer? You date a merman. You date a merman and have really erotic sex with him to fill that void.

 The Pisces follows 38 year-old Lucy as she struggles to deal with her post-kinda-breakup-but-not-really-breakup depression. These struggles include punching her boyfriend’s nose and sending him to the hospital, as well as blacking out on Ambien and crashing her car on the highway—covered in the doughnuts she had just purchased in her stupor, of course. Lucy tries therapy, and then Lucy tries Tinder. Because hey, who knows how long this break is going to last, and Lucy isn’t getting any less depressed. Or younger. But it isn’t until an encounter with a certain scaly hunk on a beach in Venice that she finds the ultimate escape from her worries. That’s right; I said scaly. And he’s like, covered in barnacles too.

 This realistic tale (get it, kinda like fish tail) of a woman trying to cope after finding herself stuck in an unsatisfying relationship takes a surreal turn with the introduction of Theo the merman. His character is absurd because he’s a merman and he’s enticing a broken-hearted Lucy. This is, in fact, a woman who—on the very first page—proclaimed her love for cleaning up dog shit because it’s so intimate: “It felt so intimate scooping his gigantic shits, big hot bags of them.” She’s moved on from the dog shit—as well as the kind-of-boyfriend—and now she’s screwing around with a mythical creature. Theo is a great lay and he says he loves Lucy. Receiving oral sex from a merman on ocean rocks almost sounds straight out of a romance novel. He is all the makings of a pure fantasy, and he is seemingly the antidote for her heartbreak. He is absolutely real, and in Lucy’s eyes, he is more than a fantasy. At least for a little bit.

 What can you do? That’s how men tend to be; I guess mermen are no exception.

 Despite how far-fetched this story may seem, Broder manages to ground us through a very relatable Lucy and her very relatable quest towards both moving on and trying to stay sane in the process. Lucy’s fling with Theo is representative of much more than meets the eye, and it’s not too dissimilar from a fling that you, or perhaps even me, might have gone through following a breakup or “break.” Broder nails the natural desperation for distraction that comes post-relationship, and also the intense desire to feel wanted and loved. It’s just in this case, that source of affection happens to be coming from a merman. And Lucy does technically still have a boyfriend—we all just see where that’s going.

 Nowhere. It’s going nowhere. You don’t even need to read the book to know that.

 Other reviews have labeled Lucy as an insufferable character because of her inability to find satisfaction within her seemingly decent boyfriend (I say seemingly because Lucy is very clearly losing interest in him, and a man probably wrote that review) and her whininess in not being able to find satisfaction in other men, as well. She’s deemed shell-fish. (Get it?) Lazy for approaching middle-age without a solid game plan or relationship. However, it is all these traits that make her human. These traits make her relatable. Perhaps these reviewers got too swept up in the fantasy of Theo and wet hot merman sex, but Lucy is a very real character who struggles with very real issues. Sometimes to be human isn’t to be likeable. But I like Lucy; I actually love Lucy.

 Lucy’s perspective is a vivid one that doesn’t shy away from offending. She’s what old people might call crass. But in this day and age, she’s a female voice that we need. Whether she’s discussing her wishes to have a man covered entirely in dildos, or describing getting period blood on her sister’s couch during merman sex, she offers a unique perspective on things that simply can’t be replicated. I high-key think most people have trouble stomaching Lucy because of her openness to share, and that’s more reflective of society’s issue with upfront women than any actual issue with Lucy. She’s honest. It’s refreshing to hear a woman speak so boldly (because god forbid we hear from anymore bold men) and without filter. Filters are boring. And so are men. The Pisces is definitely not boring.

 Hello, do I need to mention merman sex again?


Review by Kala Wahl


Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Year: 2018
ISBN-10: 1524761559
Number of Pages: 288