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An original, imaginative, and hilarious debut novel about love, anxiety, and sea creatures, from the author of So Sad Today. Lucy has been writing her dissertation about Sappho for thirteen years when she and Jamie break up. After she hits rock bottom in Phoenix, her Los Angeles-based sister insists Lucy housesit for the summer—her only tasks caring for a beloved diabetic d An original, imaginative, and hilarious debut novel about love, anxiety, and sea creatures, from the author of So Sad Today. Lucy has been writing her dissertation about Sappho for thirteen years when she and Jamie break up. After she hits rock bottom in Phoenix, her Los Angeles-based sister insists Lucy housesit for the summer—her only tasks caring for a beloved diabetic dog and trying to learn to care for herself. Annika’s home is a gorgeous glass cube atop Venice Beach, but Lucy can find no peace from her misery and anxiety—not in her love addiction group therapy meetings, not in frequent Tinder meetups, not in Dominic the foxhound’s easy affection, not in ruminating on the ancient Greeks. Yet everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer one night while sitting alone on the beach rocks. Whip-smart, neurotically funny, sexy, and above all, fearless, The Pisces is built on a premise both sirenic and incredibly real—what happens when you think love will save you but are afraid it might also kill you.


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An original, imaginative, and hilarious debut novel about love, anxiety, and sea creatures, from the author of So Sad Today. Lucy has been writing her dissertation about Sappho for thirteen years when she and Jamie break up. After she hits rock bottom in Phoenix, her Los Angeles-based sister insists Lucy housesit for the summer—her only tasks caring for a beloved diabetic d An original, imaginative, and hilarious debut novel about love, anxiety, and sea creatures, from the author of So Sad Today. Lucy has been writing her dissertation about Sappho for thirteen years when she and Jamie break up. After she hits rock bottom in Phoenix, her Los Angeles-based sister insists Lucy housesit for the summer—her only tasks caring for a beloved diabetic dog and trying to learn to care for herself. Annika’s home is a gorgeous glass cube atop Venice Beach, but Lucy can find no peace from her misery and anxiety—not in her love addiction group therapy meetings, not in frequent Tinder meetups, not in Dominic the foxhound’s easy affection, not in ruminating on the ancient Greeks. Yet everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer one night while sitting alone on the beach rocks. Whip-smart, neurotically funny, sexy, and above all, fearless, The Pisces is built on a premise both sirenic and incredibly real—what happens when you think love will save you but are afraid it might also kill you.

30 review for The Pisces

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    i so don't have the words to review this right now....made my head spin in all the right ways tho i so don't have the words to review this right now....made my head spin in all the right ways tho

  2. 5 out of 5

    Navessa

    This is…not an easy book to read, or review, for that matter. I think readers will be really divided over it. It’s one of those that you’re either going to love, or fucking hate. Right up front you need to know that while this book is marketed as a romance, it doesn’t read like one. This is more like women’s fiction, where the majority of the story is dominated by the female lead and her anxiety and obsessions. The merman sex doesn’t come along until a good ways in, and even then, for me, their r This is…not an easy book to read, or review, for that matter. I think readers will be really divided over it. It’s one of those that you’re either going to love, or fucking hate. Right up front you need to know that while this book is marketed as a romance, it doesn’t read like one. This is more like women’s fiction, where the majority of the story is dominated by the female lead and her anxiety and obsessions. The merman sex doesn’t come along until a good ways in, and even then, for me, their relationship didn’t feel like the sole focus of this story. The Pisces opens with a bad breakup, and the weird WTFery that persists throughout its entirety is apparent in the very first few paragraphs, so I really recommend getting the free sample of this before you make a commitment to buy it. If you can handle the level of the main character’s existential angst in the sample pages, then you *should* be okay. Other things you should prepare yourself for: this character is not the most likable. Female readers tend to judge female characters incredibly harsh. I myself am guilty of doing this. Especially with books written in the first person. Because when you’re reading something like, “I fucking hate all these people,” but you, the reader, don’t actually hate them and think the MC is just being an asshole, it creates a disconnect that can be hard to get past. There were MANY instances while reading this that I thought the MC was being an asshole. Or that I was totally disconnected from her decisions because I would never make them myself. And yet I was able to get over it. Because Lucy is so brutally honest. You know those terrible things you think? About life, love, other people, etc? The thoughts you pretend you don’t have? Those instant criticisms of strangers based on their physical attractiveness, their clothing choices, their weight? Lucy puts all of that inner monologue right in your face. And it can be soooo uncomfortable to bear witness to. The people in her group therapy sessions are turned into archetypes through her skewed lens. I think readers will struggle with recognizing that is what is happening and that these characters are not actually one-dimensional. That this author is not actually shitting on therapy or medication or getting help when you need it. She’s shining a light on the fact that sometimes getting help sucks. Sometimes recognizing your own mental health needs is fucking hard. People who have never had to deal with depression, or anxiety, or neurosis of any kind are going to have a tough time connecting to Lucy in the first half of this. It isn’t until around the 40% mark that things begin to turn around. That Lucy is able to recognize some of her more unhealthy behaviors and thoughts. That she begins to see past appearances and connect with the women around her in a way she’s been longing to her whole life. That isn’t to say that she doesn’t have setbacks. That she didn’t do things later in the book that made me want to tear my hair out. But the fact that this author somehow had me hysterically laughing a page or two after each one made it easy to keep reading. So, while this book is definitely not for everyone, I can’t recommend it enough for those who have read this review and still found themselves intrigued. The Pisces is for readers who don’t have to love their female main characters to appreciate a book. For anyone who craves that catharsis of seeing in print that sometimes seeking help for your mental health isn’t the shiny bastion of love, acceptance, and healing that some people try to make it out to be. For fans of The Shape of Water and Mrs. Caliban that can’t get enough of cross-species steaminess with thought-provoking introspectiveness. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    This is not a book for everyone, but it was very much a book for me. I was hooked from the very first page and could not stop thinking about this book in the breaks between reading it (I went on a 4-day hike in-between and would constantly mull over this book while walking). The book starts when Lucy has apparently already hit rock bottom: her boyfriend has left her, her thesis supervisors give her a deadline to finally finish writing the thesis on Sappho she has been working on for years (and i This is not a book for everyone, but it was very much a book for me. I was hooked from the very first page and could not stop thinking about this book in the breaks between reading it (I went on a 4-day hike in-between and would constantly mull over this book while walking). The book starts when Lucy has apparently already hit rock bottom: her boyfriend has left her, her thesis supervisors give her a deadline to finally finish writing the thesis on Sappho she has been working on for years (and in which she does not believe anymore), and she spirals out of control leading to her assaulting her ex and as a result being forced into therapy. Her (much older) sister offers her a job house- and dog-sitting so that maybe she can find her footing again while also attending group therapy. But Lucy is not done spiralling just yet. Melissa Broder hit a nerve with me here: her descriptions of academia and the slog of a PhD felt on point. Lucy’s thoughts are close to thoughts I have had in the depth of trying to write a thesis – if I started to doubt my dissertation’s main thesis, I am sure I would feel as lost as Lucy does when she realizes she does not believe in her work any more. This coupled with her depression and dependency issues made for a very believable character. The biggest strength of this very strong book is therefore Lucy. She is unpleasant, deeply so, mean and self-centered while staying believable as a person and ultimately being somebody I could not help but root for, even when she makes one ridiculous decision after the other. She manages to always find the most destructive course of action for any given situation. Her addiction to love (while being emotionally unavailable) is painful to watch, exactly because it is so believable. Her reaction to men is even more unbearable to watch and Melissa Broder captures the awkwardness and heartbreak of bad one-night-stands so very vividly that it made me cringe (and I mean that as a compliment). I adored this. While I thought the first half was near perfect (funny and sad and poignant and so very very relatable and beyond everything just brilliant), I did think the second half suffered from Broder’s infatuation with her own metaphor. It is a great metaphor, for sure, but not so much that it could sustain the brilliance of the beginning. Still, god, what a book. First sentence: “I was no longer lonely but I was.” PS: I have changed the rating to five stars because of all the books I have read so far this year, this one just will not let me go. I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing in exchange for an honest review. You can find this review and other thoughts on books on my blog.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Larry H

    "Did it take a mythological deformity to find a gorgeous man who was as needy as I was?" So, if you watched the film The Shape of Water and thought to yourself, "I wish I could find a sea creature to, well, you know," then Melissa Broder's new book, The Pisces , is for you. I didn't know there was such a thing as merman erotica, but here it is. (Seriously.) Lucy's life is falling to pieces. She's been working on her doctoral dissertation on Sappho for nine years, and she doesn't know what t "Did it take a mythological deformity to find a gorgeous man who was as needy as I was?" So, if you watched the film The Shape of Water and thought to yourself, "I wish I could find a sea creature to, well, you know," then Melissa Broder's new book, The Pisces , is for you. I didn't know there was such a thing as merman erotica, but here it is. (Seriously.) Lucy's life is falling to pieces. She's been working on her doctoral dissertation on Sappho for nine years, and she doesn't know what to do with it anymore, because she's not even sure what her point is. Even worse, she and her longtime boyfriend Jamie break up, and before she knows it she's wandering around town half-dressed and drugged, and she suddenly is harboring violent tendencies. Her older sister comes to the rescue, convincing Lucy to take the summer at her fancy house on Venice Beach and take care of her beloved dog, Dominic. She promises to attend group therapy, swear off dating, work on her dissertation, and revel in the love the dog can provide. However, it's not long before she becomes depressed by how pathetic her fellow group members seem, and she feels the need to fill the empty space inside her by having sex with anonymous men she meets on Tinder. "Was it ever real: the way we felt about another person? Or was it always a projection of something we needed or wanted regardless of them?" One night, while sitting on the beach rocks alone, she meets Theo, a handsome and mysterious swimmer. He seems to be everything she is looking for—sexy, intuitive, sensitive, and immensely attracted to her. She comes back to the beach rocks to find him on subsequent nights, but she isn't sure what his deal is—is he a night surfer, a swimmer, or just some guy who never seems to get out of the water? As her life continues imploding, she discovers the truth behind Theo's identity: he's a merman, but not one of the horrible creatures portrayed in mythology. Theo may be a merman, but he's all man, and their sex life satisfies her more than any of the recent encounters or her relationship with her boyfriend ever did. But as Lucy tries to make their relationship work by bringing him to her sister's house, she realizes that this kind of life may be more complicated than she realizes. Faced with the prospect of losing Theo, she makes some crucial mistakes, and when he asks her to live with him underwater, she thinks it might be the solution to all of her problems. Is she totally crazy, or is this the key to everlasting love? What does "living" with him really entail? In The Pisces , Broder creates a portrait of a woman who desperately wants to feel desired and feel loved, and she believes only a man can make her feel fulfilled. The book is part social commentary on the pressure women feel to behave as expected, and how easily they can be taken advantage of, and it's part fantasy (you know, the merman part). At times the book is painful to read because of the loneliness and depression that Lucy and some of her fellow group members suffer from. As you might imagine given the subject matter, this book is pretty sexually explicit, and it's probably more of a book for women than it is for men. It tends to drag a little bit at times, as Lucy keeps cycling through her depression and indecisiveness. I also had a bit of a problem with the way she treated the dog, so those who are sensitive to the way pets and animals are treated in books may be troubled by her behavior. Broder is a tremendously creative storyteller, and she imbues her characters with heart, sensitivity, and humor, as well as some serious libidos. This is an odd book, but it's definitely one of the most unique ones I've read in some time. It certainly may make you think twice when you're at the beach at night! See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2017.html.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)

    A big "fuck no" from me. This was awful in so, so many ways. A big "fuck no" from me. This was awful in so, so many ways.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Swaye

    This is, without doubt, one of the absolute worst books I've ever read. This is, without doubt, one of the absolute worst books I've ever read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Smart and subversive, The Pisces subverts the conventions of the romance novel. Lucy is a 38-year-old Classics grad student facing a bleak future. Her long-term relationship with her boyfriend Jamie has collapsed, and her dissertation on Sappho has stalled. Lucy's luck starts to change when, late one night on a walk by the shoreline, the PhD student meets Theo, an alluring swimmer who can't tear himself from the Pacific. After a series of seductive encounters, Theo reveals to Lucy an explosive s Smart and subversive, The Pisces subverts the conventions of the romance novel. Lucy is a 38-year-old Classics grad student facing a bleak future. Her long-term relationship with her boyfriend Jamie has collapsed, and her dissertation on Sappho has stalled. Lucy's luck starts to change when, late one night on a walk by the shoreline, the PhD student meets Theo, an alluring swimmer who can't tear himself from the Pacific. After a series of seductive encounters, Theo reveals to Lucy an explosive secret: he's a merman. Predictably an ultimatum is given—with frightening implications. Theo demands that Lucy join him under the sea, giving up her life for their love. This kind of life-altering choice lies at the heart of the romance novel, but here it's literalized and made horrific. The novel's filled to the brim with similar generic subversions, as inventive as they are caustic, and the sex scenes are expertly written. Early in the novel Broder fully renders the clumsiness of bad sex, as well as the strange mix of humiliation, disgust, and dread that so often follows a date arranged via Tinder. After Lucy meets Theo, the prose becomes effusive, delving into fantasy, but it's no less memorable. Well worth checking out.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Sullivan

    I never knew merman erotica was what was missing in my life until I read The Pisces. If existential angst, ennui, and mythical sea creatures speak to you on a profound level of your being, you really won't want to miss this. Listless after her latest breakup, Lucy temporarily relocates to Venice Beach to dog-sit at her sister's beautiful home. There she attends group therapy for love addicts and attempts to cope with an ever-growing void of despair. After a series of humiliating sexual encounters, I never knew merman erotica was what was missing in my life until I read The Pisces. If existential angst, ennui, and mythical sea creatures speak to you on a profound level of your being, you really won't want to miss this. Listless after her latest breakup, Lucy temporarily relocates to Venice Beach to dog-sit at her sister's beautiful home. There she attends group therapy for love addicts and attempts to cope with an ever-growing void of despair. After a series of humiliating sexual encounters, she meets the mysterious Theo one night down by the water and quickly becomes captivated by him. If you're familiar with the dark and hilarious Twitter account @sosadtoday, you'll have an idea of what you're getting into with book. Melissa Broder is the brilliant mind behind both, and her signature style is relatable to anyone trying to survive the anxiety, angst and terror of modern life. The fact that one of the characters is a merman comes across as less silly than you might imagine, and more like an acknowledgment of the absurdity of existence: being alive in this world is a strange thing, so why the hell wouldn't there be mermans? The Pisces is a deeply bizarre, strangely erotic and fascinatingly visceral book about the human need for both emotional satisfaction and desire, and the frustrating ways that they are mutually exclusive. Is it possible to balance love, longing and lust, or are we destined to always want something more than what we have? I tore through this book in a state of gleeful awe, laughing out loud at lines like this: "As we kissed I imagined eating his tail with garlic butter." The Pisces certainly isn't for everyone, but it was most definitely for me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erin

     Nominee for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019- Longlist Does the character in this book need therapy or do I need therapy for reading this book? Audiobook narrated by the author, Melissa Broder. 8h 20mins Lord knows that I will read anything and I love to diversify my literary palate. A book about a woman having some merman relations? Okay, I'll give it a try! But this book almost killed me. Now I just might be channeling my inner drama queen tonight but I emerge among the high ratings and gl  Nominee for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019- Longlist Does the character in this book need therapy or do I need therapy for reading this book? Audiobook narrated by the author, Melissa Broder. 8h 20mins Lord knows that I will read anything and I love to diversify my literary palate. A book about a woman having some merman relations? Okay, I'll give it a try! But this book almost killed me. Now I just might be channeling my inner drama queen tonight but I emerge among the high ratings and glowing reviews and must admit utter surrender. Although I am not sure if it was the main character going the extra mile to prepare for anal sex or the whole menstrual blood scene, but I weep for the bygone days of the good old fashioned bodice ripper( half joking). First audio I have listened to that I really had to stick with 60 minutes each day. Thank goodness for small chapters! But I am just one lone wolf and my review might just tempt you enough to check it out for yourself. All in all, this might just be the most fascinating book that I have to crown my favorite 1 star book of all time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I want to make this clear for those of you who get recommendations off me: The Pisces is not my usual kind of book. Anything shelved as both fantasy and romance would ordinarily get an automatic pass from me. But this wonderful review from Hannah piqued my curiosity, so against my better judgment I decided to request it and leave it up to the Netgalley gods to see whether or not I'd read it. I was approved approximately 2 minutes later, so that was that. Thankfully, The Pisces was pretty incredib I want to make this clear for those of you who get recommendations off me: The Pisces is not my usual kind of book. Anything shelved as both fantasy and romance would ordinarily get an automatic pass from me. But this wonderful review from Hannah piqued my curiosity, so against my better judgment I decided to request it and leave it up to the Netgalley gods to see whether or not I'd read it. I was approved approximately 2 minutes later, so that was that. Thankfully, The Pisces was pretty incredible, and it just reaffirmed my tendency to occasionally read outside my comfort zone. It's a sort of literary soft erotica story about a woman who falls in love with a merman, but I feel like that description sells it short. Broder's writing is smart and sharp, and her story goes a lot deeper than your average mermaid erotica (or maybe the mermaid erotica genre has hidden depths and I'm just over here showing off my ignorance for underestimating it). Anyway, a lot of that is down to our protagonist, Lucy. Lucy is 38 years old, has been working on her PhD thesis on Sappho for years and has since become disillusioned with it, and her love life is a disaster. She's also kind of awful. She's not a particularly nice person, and it's hard to root for her - but I still want to, through everything. This is Lucy's journey to accept herself and reconcile her obsession with love with her fear of intimacy, and what could be more human than that? Also, because of Lucy's studies on Sappho, her narration is fused with allusions to Greek mythology and the classics, so I guess this book wasn't 100% outside of my wheelhouse. And then there's the fantastical element. This was what I was worried about going in, but I ended up loving it. I feel like it's treated by the narrative with a certain amount of self-awareness toward its inherent absurdity, which makes it all the more endearing. This is not going to be for everyone. Don't read this if you can't stomach graphic sex scenes, or if you don't enjoy reading about unlikable characters, or if you're looking for something with the same sort of whimsical fairytale feel as The Shape of Water. The Pisces is both grittier and funnier, sexier and somehow less romantic. It's both a fun read and an unexpectedly hard-hitting one, and with its absolutely stunning conclusion, I'll probably be thinking about it for days to come. Thank you to Netgalley, Hogarth Press, and Melissa Broder for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    make fiction weird again

  12. 5 out of 5

    Whitney Atkinson

    I read this book in one sitting and all I have to say is: 1. wow 2. ..... ok 3. interesting This book would be great to discuss in a book club because it talks about depression and making bad choices and getting over-attached to love to fill the voids in your life and it works so well. I loved watching the main character descend into chaos and nonsense, and like I said, I just could not put down this book. I'm not sure that I'll be thinking about it too far in the future because I read it too fast I read this book in one sitting and all I have to say is: 1. wow 2. ..... ok 3. interesting This book would be great to discuss in a book club because it talks about depression and making bad choices and getting over-attached to love to fill the voids in your life and it works so well. I loved watching the main character descend into chaos and nonsense, and like I said, I just could not put down this book. I'm not sure that I'll be thinking about it too far in the future because I read it too fast to let the deeper themes really sink in, but I would love to revisit it and mark up some of its great quotes when I get my own copy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    ♛ may

    actual footage of me throughout the entirety of this book: (ಥ﹏ಥ) I want to go back to the person I was before I read this book, honestly one of the worst books i've ever read when i first started it, i was going to compile a list of reasons why i disliked it but by the time i got to chapter 2 i realized that would be futile bc i'd have to compile a list that 74 pages long just know that the main character is a self centered piece of trash that hurts everyone around her, is incredibly judgemental ( actual footage of me throughout the entirety of this book: (ಥ﹏ಥ) I want to go back to the person I was before I read this book, honestly one of the worst books i've ever read when i first started it, i was going to compile a list of reasons why i disliked it but by the time i got to chapter 2 i realized that would be futile bc i'd have to compile a list that 74 pages long just know that the main character is a self centered piece of trash that hurts everyone around her, is incredibly judgemental (sis how you gonna be judgemental when your life is like this??), and continuously laments over how awful it is to be alive ...she only concerns herself with which guy wants her (🤢) and her thought-process is vile like i was listening to the audiobook while eating breakfast and,,,,,,,wouldn't recommend actually wouldn't recommend this book at all also she continuously fed her sister's dog (who is diabetic) tranquilizers so that she could obsessively sleep with a merman, on her sister's couch ...yes, you read that right, a m e r m a n .... y'all I COULDNT MAKE THIS STUFF UP IF I TRIED anyways, im gonna go bleach my brain bc i cant deal rn tw: animal abuse/neglect, attempted suicide (also lots of talk on it), self harm

  14. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    The crazy-woman disease She had always thought we were both safe from the crazy-woman disease: that desperation and need. But now I had fallen into it, fallen all the way under, and she saw how a person could just go. One minute you were playfully complaining to friends about a man’s farts and the next minute you would kill to have the farts back. Ladies, you've been there, right? The "crazy-woman disease" Melissa Broder is talking about? When you realise that all you want, after all your comp The crazy-woman disease She had always thought we were both safe from the crazy-woman disease: that desperation and need. But now I had fallen into it, fallen all the way under, and she saw how a person could just go. One minute you were playfully complaining to friends about a man’s farts and the next minute you would kill to have the farts back. Ladies, you've been there, right? The "crazy-woman disease" Melissa Broder is talking about? When you realise that all you want, after all your complaining and longing for excitement, freedom, release from the tedium of your relationship, is to have the farts back? And so you go nuts trying to chase those farts. You call, you cry, you text, you cry some more, you eat a lot of ice cream, you humiliate yourself. You go into a nihilistic depression. You nurture a self pitying obsession. You measure your worth by the attention and validation you have, right at this precise moment. Fartless, you tumble into desperation to get said attention and validation, from anyone with a penis. I mean, at least, I've heard of women doing this. Lucy has this disease. In an attempt to get her lukewarm boyfriend of nine years to man up and fight for her, she gets dumped. She goes crazy and her sister offers her a summer of house-and-dog-sitting at Venice beach as a way to mend. It's also a way to finish her thesis, an academic take on the blank spaces in Sappho's writing, something she has been struggling with for far too long. She goes to California. She goes to group therapy. She leaves therapy. She returns to therapy. She leaves therapy every time she succumbs to the disease, every time she swipes her Tinder app and takes a hit of male attention. The first half of this book was a nasty, crude, chicken soup for the soul. I laughed out loud at least a dozen times. It was as if Miranda July married Ottessa Moshfegh, and damn those two make a wickedly delightful couple! The second half of this book, which goes into fantastical realms (similar to that of Mrs. Caliban) that I somehow lapped up with no hesitation whatsoever, got a little more earnest for me. It lacked the utter spontaneity and humour of the previous half, but, I completely understand why it evolved in such a way. And it ended with the right mixture of wisdom and shit. This book is full of graphic sex scenes unlike any I've read before. They are daring, they are repulsive, they are realistic, so very awkward, sometimes sexy, and all from the female point of view. These scenes serve the plot, illuminating the painful losses incurred when trying to make someone else the solution to your personal brokenness. Can you save your own life with farts? As we all know, farts, at the end of the day, are just stinky puffs of air. 4.5 stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ova - Excuse My Reading

    Full review here A novel that could to be sad and hilarious at the same time. I would never have imagined I'd find a book disturbing but will still will be able to love it. We follow the story of Lucy, who loses her long-term boyfriend over an angry blurt-out confession and moves away to California to be a temporary dog-sitter to her sister. Aiming to spend a few months there she tries pulling herself together by hooking up with strangers, joins a group therapy with other 'emotionally broken' wom Full review here A novel that could to be sad and hilarious at the same time. I would never have imagined I'd find a book disturbing but will still will be able to love it. We follow the story of Lucy, who loses her long-term boyfriend over an angry blurt-out confession and moves away to California to be a temporary dog-sitter to her sister. Aiming to spend a few months there she tries pulling herself together by hooking up with strangers, joins a group therapy with other 'emotionally broken' women, and meets a merman. I loved the brutal honesty. It came with unpleasant stickiness of the real life drama of dating, but still... The "No strings attached" insecurity of casual hanging out could be emotionally draining and I felt The Pisces had a satirical and dark look at this which I have never came across in any other contemporary work. Lucy is selfish and arrogant, but insecure and childish. I laughed out loud about her comments on Rochelle. It was hilarious. I think this book was a protest on the perception on relationships today: The women are available and men aren't. You have to maintain your 'fuckability' to remain desirable. Although the magical realism felt a bit untidy I liked the merman romance and how the mermaid and Lucy tried to shift each other to their own world, pretty much what happens in real life. The sex scenes were a bit too graphic and it could have been more elegant without juggling the description of sex/intimate parts between pages. But still, I enjoyed this book and found it very clever.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    This was EVERYTHING I want from fiction and I loved it without reservation. It’s been so long since I fell so hard and so completely for a novel. Perfection. It’s that funny/depressing exploration of existential pain, suffering and ennui I love so much while being the exact kind of weird that speaks to me. Broder takes us deep into the void (as she did in her essay collection SO SAD TODAY) and offers us the absurd – merman love! – and I was all about it. Honestly, you quite simply have to read t This was EVERYTHING I want from fiction and I loved it without reservation. It’s been so long since I fell so hard and so completely for a novel. Perfection. It’s that funny/depressing exploration of existential pain, suffering and ennui I love so much while being the exact kind of weird that speaks to me. Broder takes us deep into the void (as she did in her essay collection SO SAD TODAY) and offers us the absurd – merman love! – and I was all about it. Honestly, you quite simply have to read this book especially if you’re a fan of Alissa Nutting, George Saunders, Patty Cottrell, Gabe Habash or any other contemporary author willing to push a narrative and their writing to its limits. It’s the kind of book that makes me very excited about the possibilities of fiction!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    I am romantically obsessed with this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nat K

    "You're gonna have to face it, you're addicted to love." - Robert Palmer "I always thought I could handle things, until I couldn't." Lucy is neurotic, has obsessive tendencies and is a bit of a mess. Instead of completing her thesis (many years overdue), she's stuffing around. Mooning over her breakup with Jamie, her long term boyfriend, whom she was bored with anyway. She didn't think he'd take her up on her offer to take a break. Funding for her dissertation will be removed unless she completes it "You're gonna have to face it, you're addicted to love." - Robert Palmer "I always thought I could handle things, until I couldn't." Lucy is neurotic, has obsessive tendencies and is a bit of a mess. Instead of completing her thesis (many years overdue), she's stuffing around. Mooning over her breakup with Jamie, her long term boyfriend, whom she was bored with anyway. She didn't think he'd take her up on her offer to take a break. Funding for her dissertation will be removed unless she completes it. And soon. It's all a bit dire and her world, along with her mind is unravelling. Venice Beach, California Lucy's 'rescue' comes via her sister Annike. She offers Lucy to stay in her home, while she's in Europe for work, rent free. All she has to do is doggysit Dominic (a gorgeous dachshund who has diabetes and needs proper care),and attend group therapy sessions after assaulting Jamie. Oh, and get that thesis written. Rather than getting her act together, Lucy has no strings attached Tinder sexcapades which are tawdry, grubby and unfulfilling. Also expensive ($400 for new undies which don't last the distance). A revenge of sorts on her ex (look at all the men who want me). On a moonlight walk along the beach, Lucy meets a mysterious, gorgeous stranger. Who turns out to be a merman. But that's no weirder than anything else going on in Lucy's life. Their lovemaking is out of this world. Though I guess it would have to be, what with his being a half mythical creature. He can hold his breath for a long time. "...it's the most passionate, real, most spiritual experience I've ever had with someone. And yet, I'm not even totally sure if the whole thing even exists." Unfortunately as Lucy's infatuation with Theo (the merman) grows, her care of Dominic (the doxie) becomes non-existent. It is reprehensible. Without giving the story away, her obsession with Theo takes over every living, breathing moment. She can think of nothing else. Lucy is a complex character. Her absolute need for love & devotion is exhausting. She defines herself by men wanting her & equates sex with her value. But once she has the man, she doesn't want him. She feels suffocated. For Lucy the pursuit is the fun part, the anticipation of what will happen next, the thrill of the chase. She's in love with the idea of love. "I love it. I love love. It's the only thing I have." Will things change for Lucy with the dishy, fishy Theo? For such a flawed character, Lucy's thoughts about the complexities of life are really deep. And insightful. For someone so incredibly messed up, her ponderings are spot on. She's quite the deep thinker. She questions the meaning of existence. I enjoyed the existentialist angle. The angst. It spoke to me. But I can't say I liked her. Lucy just keeps making the same mistakes. And shows no empathy for others. From poor Dominic who was dependent on her, to one of the women in her therapy group who ended up on suicide watch in the psych ward. It was still all about Lucy. Seeing her world implode is like watching a grim "reality" TV show. You want to look away, but you just can't. "The real world is rubbish." Theo (the merman) seems more filled with warmth and compassion than Lucy. More human (the irony!). "I didn't know the people on land were filled with so much yearning. I thought you had it all figured out, were satisfied." The group therapy sessions Lucy attends are bitterly caustic and quite wicked in the depictions of the ladies attending them. "Nobody heals. You need to replace!" "It's an art to believe your own lies." This is quite a dark book as it brings up so many topics most of us would probably prefer to brush aside. Or not have to deal with. Whether or not we have these behaviours ourselves. And I'm sure we all have a bit of something that's off kilter. Issues with addiction, abandonment, mental health, emotional neediness, self care, respect, love, obsessive behaviour. Name your poison. " 'Nothing is beautiful and everything is nothing,' I said to him. 'Everything is nothing and everything is beautiful.' I had no idea what I was talking about but I felt hypnotized with joy and potentiality." I've been totally unfocused with my reading recently and finished this book during a very, very difficult week. It was just the story to whisk me away from real life for a while. A bit of biblio-therapy. Trigger warnings! Animal neglect, which is totally unacceptable, regardless of the state of your psyche. No holds barred references to bodily functions. Swearing. Sexually graphic. Extremely so. But that's ok, as it's between consenting adults... and a merman. "You can't sleep, no, you can't eat There's no doubt, you're in deep Your throat is tight, you can't breathe Another kiss, is all you need." - Robert Palmer

  19. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    I love how Melissa Broder literally writes about poop, sex, and falling in love with a merman to cope with the pain that comes from being alive. Similar to her soul-probing nonfiction work So Sad Today , Broder brings such a distinct, interesting, and neurotically self-aware voice to her novel The Pisces. I am certain that some people will despise this book, as Broder writes graphically about messy sexual encounters and other R-rated things, and Lucy, the main character, can be really annoyin I love how Melissa Broder literally writes about poop, sex, and falling in love with a merman to cope with the pain that comes from being alive. Similar to her soul-probing nonfiction work So Sad Today , Broder brings such a distinct, interesting, and neurotically self-aware voice to her novel The Pisces. I am certain that some people will despise this book, as Broder writes graphically about messy sexual encounters and other R-rated things, and Lucy, the main character, can be really annoying and self-absorbed. But I enjoyed The Pisces because Broder tackles topics like anxiety, obsessive relationships with men, and using sex to cope with such honesty, humor, and intelligence. This short passage, for example, shows the types of thoughts Lucy has: "So strange how Theo had gone from someone who wasn't anything at all to me to someone I suddenly needed. Was it ever real: the way we felt about another person? Or was it always a projection of something we needed or wanted regardless of them?" I really appreciated how relatable I found The Pisces. As someone who has dealt with mental illness and irrational obsessions with men, Lucy's character felt familiar and comforting, even though she has a more anxiety-ridden and dysregulated experience than I ever did. Broder's quality of voice and depth of introspection are oftentimes awe-inspiring, such that Lucy makes observations and has thoughts that felt like some excavated them from the deepest depths of my thirsty, secretive, beating heart. A few examples: how she tells one of her boyfriends she doesn't care about marriage when she actually does, her frequent rumination about the "nothingness" of life and how we all cope with it in sometimes unhealthy ways, and all of her ideas about needing people, wanting people, needing to be needed by people, etc. Broder's inclusion of the merman felt so well-executed, as he deepened both the external and internal conflicts surrounding attachment and desire in an innovative way. Another quote that I felt worth sharing: "I wanted to be immune to time, the pain of it. But pretending didn't make it so. Everything dissolved. No one really wanted satiety. It was the prospect of satiety - the excitement around the notion that we could ever be satisfied - that kept us going. But if you were ever actually satisfied it wouldn't be satisfaction. You would just get hungry for something else. The only way to maybe have satisfaction would be to accept the nothingness and not try to put anyone else in it." Overall, a mesmerizing book I would recommend to those who enjoyed So Sad Today, as well as those who enjoy dark humor and probing introspection. If you cannot stomach raunchy sex you might want to skip this one. While I wish there had been a little more growth on Lucy's part, especially toward the end of the book - because she does some pretty terrible things in terms of her sister's dog and her friends - I still liked The Pisces a lot. Excited to see what Broder publishes next.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carrie (brightbeautifulthings)

    I received a free e-ARC through First to Read from the publishers at Penguin Random House. I need to stop being pulled in by that siren tag of ‘literary fiction.’ Clearly, publishers and I have very different ideas about what that is. (“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”) Some discussion of NSFW content ahead. Struggling through a breakup and spinning her wheels on her thesis for more than a decade, Lucy takes her sister’s offer to house-sit for her in her I received a free e-ARC through First to Read from the publishers at Penguin Random House. I need to stop being pulled in by that siren tag of ‘literary fiction.’ Clearly, publishers and I have very different ideas about what that is. (“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”) Some discussion of NSFW content ahead. Struggling through a breakup and spinning her wheels on her thesis for more than a decade, Lucy takes her sister’s offer to house-sit for her in her beautiful home in Los Angeles. Her only responsibilities are caring for her sister’s dog, working on her writing, and learning how to love herself. Instead, she takes the opportunity to date a string of younger guys, one of whom may not even be human. …Did I read the right description for this book? I was expecting an empowering, love-yourself novel that felt like a mini-break in sunny L.A. with a cool, intellectual main character. I clearly had no idea what I was signing up for. It’s hard to say what the “plot” of this book is, since it’s mainly a procession of increasingly awkward hookups and Lucy wallowing in misery while doing nothing to help herself. The first page is an exultation to dog shit (literally–I couldn’t make that up), and unfortunately, it only gets worse from there. Let’s play a drinking game: every time she says “cock” or “pussy”, take a drink. Just kidding. I’d be passed out cold after one chapter. There’s an abundance of the least sexy sex scenes I’ve ever read, ranging anywhere from weird to outright cringe-worthy, with mermaid erotica being, sadly, the most normal of the encounters. I know male literary fiction is criticized for being prurient and navel-gazing, but I don’t think the answer is to try to beat them at their own game. I’d have preferred a romance novel; at least it’s straightforward about what it is. Lucy is one of those miserable main characters who makes everyone around her miserable as well, including the reader. In the first few pages, she uncharitably refers to an innocent passerby as a “butterface,” establishing her as an unapologetic asshole right from the beginning. She’s constantly judging people by how they look and only valuing people who are conventionally attractive. She breaks up with a boyfriend she doesn’t even seem to like, then spends half the novel agonizing over it, and she relies on the attention of the male species (really, any man will do) to function. Worse, she gives nothing back. She treats the people around her like objects put there for her to feel good about herself, and she never does anything that isn’t for personal gain. She’s so self-centered, she can’t even take care of a dog. She scorns the women in her “love addiction” support group for wanting to change. Lucy doesn’t want to change, so the only development in the book is her spiraling even further. There’s a weak attempt to justify her actions with the death of her mother, which was undoubtedly traumatic, but the novel makes no effort to handle it or Lucy’s love addiction. Everyone has an existential hole at the center of their beings; we learn to live with it, and it doesn’t excuse us being rotten people. It’s like watching a really bad train wreck, and I’m not one of those people who enjoy disasters. I have no sympathy for characters who bring their misery on themselves. The really bad part is that The Pisces perpetuates all these really awful stereotypes about women, particularly the unmarried and over thirty, as being desperate and love-starved. Lucy sneers at the idea that any woman can be happy if she’s single. Girl, it’s called dignity. The thing she fails to understand is that every human needs other humans, but rewarding relationships come in all shapes and forms, not just romantic relationships between men and women. The thing she wants doesn’t exist; every relationship is a give and take, and it’s not possible to live in that thrill of first attraction forever. Whether or not she wants to be alone, independence is an important adult skill that she doesn’t even try to master. The writing is mostly filled with Lucy’s inner monologue, where she alternately criticizes everyone around her or devolves into pseudo-intellectual rambling in an attempt to rationalize her horrible decisions. There’s an undercurrent of nihilism running throughout the novel, and it’s a tired angle. (I have no patience for nihilism. Even if everything means nothing, it’s best to go on as if it matters.) There’s a heavy-handed attempt to make it all mean something in the last chapter. The dog is the pure love Lucy can’t accept for herself, and the mermaid is the fantasy love she has to give up in order to survive. Yeah, yeah, I get the symbolism. It doesn’t justify everything else I’ve had to put up with in this novel, and Lucy’s “character development” comes way too late to make a difference. What’s more, I’m not convinced she’s changed at all. The Important Decision she makes at the end is made out of jealousy, not altruism. Give it a week. She’ll be right back where she was. I review regularly at brightbeautifulthings.tumblr.com.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ I read this on Friday while sitting at multiple baseball games in the 1,000,000 degree heat. By Sunday I decided enough was enough with the baseballing and took the youngest fishing while waiting with baited breath for my very own merman to come out of the pond. What I got instead?????? Yep, those are port-a-johnnies. I guess mermaid sex just isn’t in the cards for me. *shrug* Now about the book. Literary merman porn???? Yep, that ‘b Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ I read this on Friday while sitting at multiple baseball games in the 1,000,000 degree heat. By Sunday I decided enough was enough with the baseballing and took the youngest fishing while waiting with baited breath for my very own merman to come out of the pond. What I got instead?????? Yep, those are port-a-johnnies. I guess mermaid sex just isn’t in the cards for me. *shrug* Now about the book. Literary merman porn???? Yep, that ‘bout sums it up. God this was a weird one. I really don’t think there will be many “I LOOOOOOOVED IT!” reactions, but there has to be a level of appreciation when it comes to an author who is so willing to commit to a story. Lucy will easily go down as one of the most cringe-inducing characters I have ever read, but the book wouldn’t exist if she weren’t exactly as presented. Hell I don’t even know what to say. Go read Emily’s Review. I’m giving this 2.5 Stars because the very very very end of the thing was almost satisfactory enough to endure the entire shitshow, I appreciate an author who knows when to say when and this one hit the mark when it came to a page count of less than 300 and the cover is easily going to be noted as the best one for me in 2018. However, I would never recommend this to someone so I’m rounding down.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    Thank you, Penguin Random House for sending me "The Pisces" by Melissa Broder, in exchange for an honest review. Absolute insanity! Holy smokes - what a freaky little novel, and yet I was thoroughly entertained. I think this going to be one of those books that people will either really like, or really hate. I would've easily given "The Pisces" 5 stars, but I was turned off by a couple of sex scenes, (I won't tell you which ones) so I had to dock a star, unfortunately. I also think people might h Thank you, Penguin Random House for sending me "The Pisces" by Melissa Broder, in exchange for an honest review. Absolute insanity! Holy smokes - what a freaky little novel, and yet I was thoroughly entertained. I think this going to be one of those books that people will either really like, or really hate. I would've easily given "The Pisces" 5 stars, but I was turned off by a couple of sex scenes, (I won't tell you which ones) so I had to dock a star, unfortunately. I also think people might have an issue with the protagonist, Lucy. She's well...not very likable. I don't mind an unlikable character, but it might bother some because Lucy is self-destructive, neurotic, and, selfish as fuck towards her half-sister, Annika, and group therapy friends. I still found myself intrigued by her because even though she does all these horrible things throughout the novel, she was relatable and FELT extremely human. Lucy is a special kind of crazy. Melissa Broder is an excellent and kooky little storyteller. Her writing is hilarious, (I belly laughed multiple times) razor-sharp, eccentric, and brutally honest. The sex scenes are graphic, but Broder really nailed it (no pun intended) when it came to her observations on toxic/obsessive/co-dependent relationships (shockingly accurate). I also enjoyed Broder's frank discussions on mental illness including, anxiety, depression, attempted suicide, etc. This novel is part realism, part fantasy. "The Pisces" is reminiscent of the film, "Splash" but kinkier! Lucy falls in love with a merman, Theo. Strange, I know. What makes this novel so enjoyable is the personal journey Lucy takes in learning and founding who she truly is, in and out of relationships. The ending is PERFECT (growing up is hard but necessary). The plot is absurd, but I had a blast reading it. This book is scheduled to be released May 1, 2018. Enjoy!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emily B

    I can definitely see why this book isn’t for everybody, however I desperately wanted to read it because I adored Melissa’s essay collection ‘So sad today’. I particularly love how raw her writing is and the Pisces is no exception to this. The Pisces brutally explores Codependency, vulnerability, emptiness, and desire through the main character, Lucy’s, relationship break up and the ways in which she tries to cope with this. As a result Lucy finds herself attending group therapy sessions, joining I can definitely see why this book isn’t for everybody, however I desperately wanted to read it because I adored Melissa’s essay collection ‘So sad today’. I particularly love how raw her writing is and the Pisces is no exception to this. The Pisces brutally explores Codependency, vulnerability, emptiness, and desire through the main character, Lucy’s, relationship break up and the ways in which she tries to cope with this. As a result Lucy finds herself attending group therapy sessions, joining tinder, drugging her sisters dog and falling in love with a mythical creature. Lucy is extremely judgemental, selfish, emotionally unstable and hard to please. She is also vulnerable, afraid and neurotic. I will admit I found her somewhat relatable. ‘Who was I if I wasn’t trying to make someone love me?’

  24. 5 out of 5

    ALet

    ★★★ /5 This was definitely a really interesting and thought-provoking book. It had an unlikable main character, and it helped to see the problems and conflicts of this book in a different light. For the first time, I read a book with such ideas written in this way. The story itself was truly unique, and the pacing of it was well done, it didn’t drag or went too quickly. I really liked the ideas discussed in this way but sadly I didn’t enjoy the book itself. I found that the actual story didn’t mak ★★★ /5 This was definitely a really interesting and thought-provoking book. It had an unlikable main character, and it helped to see the problems and conflicts of this book in a different light. For the first time, I read a book with such ideas written in this way. The story itself was truly unique, and the pacing of it was well done, it didn’t drag or went too quickly. I really liked the ideas discussed in this way but sadly I didn’t enjoy the book itself. I found that the actual story didn’t make much impact on my liking of the book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kaisha

    A novel about existential malaise and destructive love which is fantastic and raw, like a weird combination of a Maggie Nelson piece and Bridget Jones. I loved this book, however the Maggie Nelson comp should warn you - this book describes in graphic detail bodily functions - but it is not gratuitous. The relationship women have to their bodies is often overlooked or sanitized - this book takes the raw, bloody and vulnerable experience of female sexuality seriously. Oh, and there is a merman.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    One of the shorter books from the Women's Prize for Fiction, The Pisces is about obsession and the lengths Lucy will go in pursuit of love. From a stalled PhD to a love-obsession support group to a bizarre surfer she encounters at the beach, there are a lot of memorable moments, but more in the "oh god this is uncomfortable and terrible" kind of way. (But I couldn't stop listening to the audio read by the author either, so there is that.) Lucy reminds me of Miranda July's Cheryl (from The First B One of the shorter books from the Women's Prize for Fiction, The Pisces is about obsession and the lengths Lucy will go in pursuit of love. From a stalled PhD to a love-obsession support group to a bizarre surfer she encounters at the beach, there are a lot of memorable moments, but more in the "oh god this is uncomfortable and terrible" kind of way. (But I couldn't stop listening to the audio read by the author either, so there is that.) Lucy reminds me of Miranda July's Cheryl (from The First Bad Man) mixed with Gretchen from the FXX show You're the Worst. The novel kept my interest the entire time but left a bad taste in my mouth (and I do believe this is the author's intent.) But beyond the gross factor is an exploration of why we pursue relationships to start with. In the time between my initial impression in Instagram and this review, I had a co-worker ask for favorite poems for a display. I was scrolling through the many poets and poems I love and for some reason landed on one by Linda Pastan, which seems so resonant with this book I had to share it - What We Want. I guess it's a choice for the reader if they want to give this a surface read for the merman sex or to really go deep with the protagonist - it's a pretty dark journey. Warning - there is animal abuse in this book that I found intolerable.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Author Melissa Broder is known for her expertise and writing on psychological conditions which was the theme of her bestselling memoir “So Sad Today” (2016). In her debut novel, “The Pisces” Broder takes her writing to a new enchanting level when the protagonist falls in deeply love with a man of the sea. While there are things unknown and mysterious about him, this spellbinding story unfolds like nothing ever read before, As the story opened, 38 year old Lucy was having difficulty writing a the Author Melissa Broder is known for her expertise and writing on psychological conditions which was the theme of her bestselling memoir “So Sad Today” (2016). In her debut novel, “The Pisces” Broder takes her writing to a new enchanting level when the protagonist falls in deeply love with a man of the sea. While there are things unknown and mysterious about him, this spellbinding story unfolds like nothing ever read before, As the story opened, 38 year old Lucy was having difficulty writing a thesis for her PhD titled “The Accentual Gap: Sappho’s Spaces as Essence”. Lucy had many ideas about the mythology and omitted writings of the lesbian hypersexual poet, who had a preference for younger lovers. Still, she was unable to produce or submit any substantial writing, and was in danger of having her funding cancelled. Lucy was often bored and annoyed with her non-committal geologist boyfriend Jamie-- and he agreed with her wholeheartedly when she suggested they take a temporary break from their 8 year relationship. Eventually there was a problem when he didn’t want to get back together. The loss of her relationship sent Lucy into a melancholic phase: “I always thought of depression as having a shape—when it manifested as a feeling of emptiness you could inject something into it; a walk, a 3 Musketeers, something to give it new form.” After Lucy assaulted Jamie, she was given the option of entering therapy to avoid prosecution. Annika, her wealthy sister suggested Lucy housesit on her Venice beachfront home and care for her beloved dog Dominic while she and her husband traveled for the summer on business. Lucy should have been appreciative and grateful for her sister’s concern and generous support, and taken better care of Dominic while enjoying Annika's luxurious home. Instead, Lucy, entirely self-absorbed, found ways to avoid her therapist's recommendation of: “No Dating until serious work on the self-occurred.” Through Lucy, Broder illustrated the challenges of treatment of sex and love addiction and other various psychological conditions. Lucy engaged in numerous high risk sexual encounters and unprotected sex as she spiraled out of control. Her unusual love relationship with Theo, the Merman, provided Lucy a rare understanding and insight as she was forced to consider her options as her time on the beach could end when she returned to the University of Arizona. **With thanks and appreciation to Penguin Random House LLC, New York via NetGalley for the DDC for the purpose of review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ellen ✦ Book Bellas ✦

    "These things never happened but always are." An instant classic. How to describe a story that is smart, incredibly funny, profoundly sad and highly erotic? Oh yes, and there’s a merman, too! I love this author! Honestly, I have been having a hard time letting go of Lucy and Theo. A book that mixes humor and eroticism AND Greek mythology? A THOUSAND YESSES TO THE PISCES!! Lucy is despondent (but still neurotically funny) after a messy break-up with her long-time boyfriend. She leaves Phoenix w "These things never happened but always are." An instant classic. How to describe a story that is smart, incredibly funny, profoundly sad and highly erotic? Oh yes, and there’s a merman, too! I love this author! Honestly, I have been having a hard time letting go of Lucy and Theo. A book that mixes humor and eroticism AND Greek mythology? A THOUSAND YESSES TO THE PISCES!! Lucy is despondent (but still neurotically funny) after a messy break-up with her long-time boyfriend. She leaves Phoenix where she has been working on a dissertation for years, to travel to L.A. to dog-sit for her sister Annika for the summer. Lucy is forced to enter group therapy (which is hilarious and tragic at the same time) and is not really supposed to be dating yet at all. So of course because she has an addictive personality she immediately throws herself into the online dating pool with sometimes disastrous results. "I came to know and love into another kind of stranger: a physical manifestation of time and letting oneself go eclipsing both the stranger and the honeybear until they all but disappeared. I felt irate. How dare he not give a fuck? What a luxury, the luxury of a man. The luxury of someone who looked at the ravages of time and went, “Eh.” Lucy's sister's house is on the beach and one night Lucy encounters a gorgeous surfer boy named Theo. He only comes out at night when she is sitting on the rocks, looking out into the wild Pacific Ocean. "I looked out at the ocean. It was as though I hadn’t noticed it before, or hadn’t wanted to see it. I was scared of its wild ambivalence, so powerful and amorphous, like the depression itself. It didn’t give a fuck about me. It could eat me without even knowing." Lucy may be despondent but she is still funny and sexy and very desirable. It is hard to adequately describe the hilarity and poignancy of Melissa Broder's writing but every single page was a delight. Lucy becomes completely entranced by gorgeous but elusive Theo: "His is chest was hairless, and I noticed that the color of his nipples matched perfectly his lips, like pencil erasers. He looked like he was twenty-one, at most. If this was death then death was hot." Lucy still hooks up with men she meets online but is strangely drawn back to Theo and their deep connection. She eventually comes to accept who he is after several passionate kisses and much conversation. And who he really is doesn't seem so unbelievable after all. "Was there any wildness anywhere, or was all of it inhabited by tech dudes now, juice places and blow-dry bars? Had anything been left undiscovered, or did the Internet snatch it all up the moment it existed? Nothing remained untouched. Or maybe some things weren’t completely mapped out yet and there was still a little room for the mystery. Maybe some strange and beautiful boy could still pop out of the sea and surprise you." This book is so funny that I was crying from laughter throughout most of it. Melissa Broder has a magical way with words. I just want to scream from the rooftops for everyone to read this book! Yes it is weird but it is wild and beautiful and life-affirming. And the description of Venice beach life and the L.A. dating scene was hysterically funny and poignant. “I’m back,” he said. “How have the dates been treating you?” “Disgusting,” I said. “Ah, too bad.” “Are you real?” I asked. He laughed. “I suffer like I’m real. I have wants like I’m real. I fear that I will be unliked or unloved. Men, women, I think that maybe everyone wants the same thing.” This book is funny, sexy, magical and very, very real. Even though there is a merman. It is about everyone's quest for love and to be loved. 'The Pisces' is absolutely one of my favorite books and not to be missed!! "I felt the Earth rotating around us, or that we were the planet—spinning on its axis. In my head came a deep buzz of the Earth again and I didn’t know if I was actually humming out loud or if it was all inside me. This is how you exist in the world, I thought. This is how you are alive."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    At first I thought this was one of those funny, quirky but somewhat insubstantial novels about a thirtysomething stuck with a life she isn’t sure she wants – something along the lines of Goodbye, Vitamin, The Portable Veblen, or All Grown Up. Then I thought it was just a crass sex comedy. (Broder is a poet. I can’t begin to imagine what her poetry would be like!) But the further I read the deeper it all seemed to become: tropes from Greek myth and the fluidity of gender roles made me think of Yo At first I thought this was one of those funny, quirky but somewhat insubstantial novels about a thirtysomething stuck with a life she isn’t sure she wants – something along the lines of Goodbye, Vitamin, The Portable Veblen, or All Grown Up. Then I thought it was just a crass sex comedy. (Broder is a poet. I can’t begin to imagine what her poetry would be like!) But the further I read the deeper it all seemed to become: tropes from Greek myth and the fluidity of gender roles made me think of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, another debut novel that surprised me for its profundity. Lucy, the narrator, is a thirty-eight-year-old PhD student working in her Arizona college library and trying to expound a groundbreaking theory about the gaps in Sappho’s poetry. After she breaks up with her cheating boyfriend (and breaks his nose), she agrees to spend a summer dog-sitting for her yoga entrepreneur sister in Venice Beach, California while she undertakes therapy for the twin problems of low self-esteem and love addiction. Here she meets a collection of freaks with their own issues – “a multiheaded hydra of desperation” – including a British pal who ends up in a psychiatric hospital. Lucy’s nameless angst is part depression, part being conflicted over having children, and part existential crisis (it’s interesting to keep track of the use of the words “emptiness” [appears nine times] and “nothingness” [appears 57 times!], as well as variations on “mother” and “emotion”). Now, if you know one thing about this book, it’s that there’s hot merman sex. So yes, after some Internet dating disasters Lucy meets Theo, whom she assumes is a late-night swimmer who just really likes hanging out on the rocks; eventually she realizes he’s a merman with fully working male anatomy and a dedication to pleasing a woman. But because we only know what’s happening from Lucy’s perspective, (view spoiler)[I wondered if we can even trust that Theo exists. Maybe this is actually an exercise in erotic wish fulfillment, and he represents the depths of one’s self and/or giving oneself over to what has been repressed. In finally resisting him, she’s resisting a self-willed death. (hide spoiler)] At the least, the relationship with him is a means of examining possession and vulnerability and asking whether those have to equate to masculinity and femininity, respectively. Another, unrelated spoiler point: (view spoiler)[if you’re one of those people who don’t like picking up a book that has a dog as a major character because you’re worried about what’s going to happen to it … yeah, be worried. (hide spoiler)] Ultimately, this novel is about “the prison of the body” and choosing which of the different siren voices calling us we’ll listen to. I found it outrageous but rewarding. I’ve got one last thing to say, though: Unless you’re over 70 and talking about my cat, I really don’t want to ever see the word “pussy” again. Favorite lines: a description of Jamie, her ex: “the chin disappearing into a soufflé of neck meat” Theo to Lucy: “You’re like a little death. […] You’re gloomy yet charming. I like it.” – add in something about the oversexed nature and that could be a good description for this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This book is insane, gleefully and wholeheartedly insane. The basic plot summary is this: after the breakup of her long-term relationship, Lucy spends a summer in Venice Beach and falls in love with a merman. They have a ton of merman sex, described in realistic and detailed prose. (This is not a traditional romance novel; there is no fade to black, there is no coy allusion.) Simultaneously, Lucy is finishing her thesis on Sappho and taking care of her sister's dog. That's it. That's the whole p This book is insane, gleefully and wholeheartedly insane. The basic plot summary is this: after the breakup of her long-term relationship, Lucy spends a summer in Venice Beach and falls in love with a merman. They have a ton of merman sex, described in realistic and detailed prose. (This is not a traditional romance novel; there is no fade to black, there is no coy allusion.) Simultaneously, Lucy is finishing her thesis on Sappho and taking care of her sister's dog. That's it. That's the whole plot. But of course, that is not the whole book. The writing works on several levels. This is a first-person narration, and Lucy's monologue is perhaps the most honest and interesting narration I've ever read. I can see how someone might read Lucy as "unlikable," but I think that does a disservice to what Broder is trying to do. Lucy is only unlikable in that she is a fully fleshed out person with a hyper-realistic internal monologue. It's easy to condemn some of her decisions (view spoiler)[(I was waiting the entire book for Dominic to die :( :( :() (hide spoiler)] , but those decisions are always consistent with what Lucy herself is telling us. (It helps that her narration made me laugh out loud a couple times.) Through Lucy's lens, you get a larger discussion of love, and lust, and neediness, all intermixed with her thesis on Sappho and the atmosphere of Venice Beach in 2018. And it's all from a woman's perspective, which feels radical. I did not enjoy the second half of the book because it was too much merman sex and too much foreshadowing, but the book overall was so unsettling and so committed to its weirdness that it gets three stars. I thought the ending was particularly well done. (view spoiler)[I didn't enjoy it because I was racing ahead to see what happened with Dominic, but the idea that Lucy has to find a merman who rivals her in neediness, and that she actually considers going under the ocean with him, was the natural spiraling conclusion to end this story. The image of Theo showing up with a rope is going to be burned into my brain for awhile. And is Theo even real?? Or is she having some sort of psychotic breakdown or awakening that manifests as a merman? (hide spoiler)] I've been struggling to find the right male-authored work to compare this to. This book is only "women's fiction" if you consider that genre as "any work that features a woman as the protagonist," which seems wrong. This is literary fiction, full stop. It's telling that the writers who blurbed the book were all women, including Stephanie Danler, Alissa Nutting, Emily Gould, and Megan Amram. I also can't figure out who to recommend this to. I think that if you have enjoyed a writer who blurbed this book (particularly Alissa Nutting), you may also like this too. But if you read the first paragraph of this review - or the first chapter of this book, really - and are turned off, then you should stop. Despite the fact that this book is much more than it seems, you still have to read all of the merman sex to get to the deeper themes.

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