The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Melissa Broder is the author of So Sad Today, a powerful collection of essays about feminism, sex, love, depression, and addiction. Broder’s first novel, The Pisces, takes these topics, and explores them within the framework of a confronting, unexpectedly funny, and decidedly odd modern fantasy.
Lucy is a bored, 38-year-old PhD student, whose dissertation on the lost stanzas in Sappho’s poetry seems to be going nowhere. Dissatisfied with life in general, an attempt to knock her comfortable relationship off its axis backfires when her long-term boyfriend readily agrees to a separation. After an unfortunate incident involving a drive-through donut shop, a bottle of Ambien, and a thrown punch, Lucy finds herself on the other side of the country – house-sitting in Venice Beach, parenting her sister’s fur-baby, and attending court-mandated therapy for obsessive romantics.
For a while things seem to be looking up, but it’s not long before Lucy starts looking for something – and some_one_ – to fill the void in her romantic life. Tinder offers only a string of disappointing hook-ups, but on the breakwater between the ocean and the colonies of homeless junkies living on the beach, Lucy stumbles across a real-life fantasy lolling about in the water. Theo is young, gorgeous, sympathetic … and a merman. It’s not long before Lucy has, once again, tumbled down into the black hole of all-consuming, obsessive, romantic love.
Broder has an unflinching, take-no-prisoners writing style that serves this novel well, and despite the fantastical premise, The Pisces seems at times excruciatingly plausible. Swinging between the oddly prosaic – how do you have sex with someone who has a giant, barnacle-encrusted tail? – and the poetically metaphysical, The Pisces is a filthy, satirical, thought-provoking book about how the missing parts in our existence are made more beautiful by the promise of what they could have been.