Carol Ann Sima, Author . Coffee House $24.95 (217p) ISBN 978-1-56689-124-0

In the arresting prologue of this winsome contemporary fairy tale, five-year-old Jacob Koleman is enticed into the sea off South Hampton by three bare-chested little girls, who turn out to have tail fins instead of legs. (When he stares at their "titties," his "pee-pee" hardens.) Jacob escapes their caresses, but he has just met his first love, the mermaid Claritha, who resurfaces in his life 45 years later when he's a divorced dad and an established New York author of pirate stories. The menopausal, generously stacked Claritha, eager for offspring, sets her sights on Jacob, whose current book project is a departure from his usual, Men in Menopause. Jacob's feminist ex-wife, Cheryl, discovers oral sex instead of fulfilling his dream of her entering a convent, while their son, Mac, poses for older photographer Maya Evans's gallery exhibition, Dickheads. Claritha produces an egg, which Jacob fertilizes and Mac carries. The resulting infant is a full-blown replica of the goddess whose photos decorate everyone's walls, Marilyn Monroe. Sima (Jane's Bad Hare Day) walks a fine line between the whimsical and the overly cute, but the high quality of her prose sustains interest throughout. Notable are some striking similes and metaphors ("Her hair was a curly red blaze that wouldn't go out"; "We pep-talked him through the choppy waters of high school") and scenes sure to evoke wry laughter (when Jacob is caught speaking to the sea, he's hauled off to Bellevue for observation). With all the hobbit fever, this fantasy for grown-ups makes a refreshing change. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 01/01/2002
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