Girl meets fish. Not your usual twenty-first century romance novel, but then again author Melissa Broder isn’t your usual kind of writer. Counting Lena Dunham among her fans, Broder’s first novel is more Cosmopolitan confessional than Shape of Water. While aquatic eroticism takes centre stage in this tale of a broken-hearted PHD student who falls in love with a merman, this strange story is just as much about depression, anxiety and addiction as it is about the logistics of fucking with a fish tail.
One minute Broder will have you in stitches as the novel’s antiheroine, Lucy, gets her first full frontal wax (ladies, it’s not pretty) and the next, you’ll find yourself on the brink of tears, forced to contemplate the dark pits of loneliness and desperation. While most people can’t claim to have had a fling with a sexy sea creature, The Pisces is surprisingly relatable. Broder casts an unapologetic light on the modern-day dating scene and the attention deficit women suffer as a result of the unsatisfying availability of sex. Cue Tinder.
Like anyone yo-yoing between casual hook-ups and the quest for true love, Lucy is a mess. And not the kind of hot mess Sex and the City has made seem possible; an unconscious-in-a-car-full-of-jelly-doughnuts kind of mess. While for the most part Broder keeps the narrative readable with kooky characters, funny moments and honest girl talk, Lucy’s endless self-obsession and selfish actions border on unbearable. But maybe that’s what Broder intended. She holds a mirror up to our own crazy insecurities and issues, making falling in love with a merman seem like the most normal thing in the world.
The Pisces by Melissa Broder. Bloomsbury, 2018.