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  • Writer's pictureSara Bond

Pairings Project: SPEAK THE OCEAN by Rebecca Enzor

TLDR; Speak the Ocean is as deep as the tides and as variable: viciously dark and undeniably hopeful, it’s a story of humanity with a mermaid at its heart.

This ain’t the Little Mermaid, so if you’re looking for pretty singing Disney princesses, you’ve got the wrong book.

If however, you’re looking for mermaid princesses that are complex, loyal, fearsome predators? Then Rebecca Enzor’s Speak the Ocean is the book you’ve been waiting for. I heard her pitch it at a conference as “Mermaids at Sea World, and they all desperately want to kill their trainers.” Accurate, but it only tells a part of the story.

Speak the Ocean is told in alternating viewpoints between Finn, a trainer at a Sea World-esque theme park that features mermaids as their star performers. They trade on the mythology of half-human, half-fish princesses, using Ariel and Hans Christian Anderson images to bring in crowds. Finn is the son of the man who first discovered mer-creatures, and after his father’s death at sea chasing down the living myths, Finn has worked with these fierce predators. He has been longing to have a show of his own, to take the lead on training a mer, and to prove himself as worthy of his father’s legacy. His entire understanding of the mer is that they are vicious predators who will just as soon rip his throat out as look at him, and that they are not human; they are fish.

Erie is the other viewpoint character: a mermaid princess who is scared and in mourning. Her mother disappeared years ago, and ever since, her people have been disappearing, abducted by humans fishing in her seas. When she and her dolphin bodyguard are caught in a net and deposited in a theme park, she is forced to face down her captors and make them either see that she is more than a fish, or else kill them all.

This book is an absolutely brilliant exploration of what it means to be human, what it means to feel empathy for those unlike ourselves, and what any of us would do to survive. I devoured it in only a few days. Maybe it spoke to my own obsession with mermaids as a kid, or maybe because it kept me guessing throughout the story.

The characters are so complex and nuanced. Finn is not a likable character from the start, and yet there is a vulnerability, an openness to him that allows you to care just enough to allow him to grow. Erie at first appears naive, childlike, and weak, but her empathy and tenacity allow her to grow into a strong, capable character in her own right. Speak the Ocean is dark and raw and brutal at times, but it’s also hopeful and compassionate and real. I highly recommend it, but only for adults. Do not give this book to your niece who wants to dye her hair red to be like Ariel. She’s not ready for a mermaid with claws.

TLDR; Speak the Ocean is as deep as the tides and as variable: viciously dark and undeniably hopeful, it’s a story of humanity with a mermaid at its heart.

Pairing: Heart of the Ocean

It’s hard to know what to pair with murderous mermaids, so honestly, I picked this cocktail for its name, and the fact that it looked delicious, and I had the ingredients on hand.

I was tempted initially to go with something slightly salty, slightly, briny, something that made me think of the depths. Or else to go with some spin on a traditional beach drink. Alas, I couldn’t find a salty drink that worked other than various margaritas, and tequila did not seem like the right fit for Erie. Neither did a Pina Colada or a Daiquiri.

Luckily I found this gorgeous drink. Something substantial with the Cointreau and Cognac, but also playful and innocent with the strawberries and prosecco; it was the perfect juxtaposition of Erie’s personality. And it’s delicious!

So, here’s the Heart of the Ocean (taken from the Cointreau recipe website). Heart of the Ocean

.75oz Cointreau 1.5oz Cognac 0.75oz lemon juice 0.25oz simple syrup Sliced strawberries 1 dash Angostura bitters 2oz prosecco Muddle the strawberries in the bottom of the shaker. Add ice and all ingredients except prosecco. Shake until your fingers get chilled. Strain into cocktail glass. Top with Prosecco. Garnish with a strawberry slice.

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