cover image The Pisces

The Pisces

Melissa Broder. Hogarth, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5247-6155-4

The debut novel by poet and essayist Broder (So Sad Today) is an alternately ribald and poignant fantasy about a relationship between a despondent graduate student and a merman. Lucy, stalled out after years of trying to write a dissertation on Sappho and melting down after her boyfriend breaks up with her, heads out from her desert campus to the beaches of southern California, where she dogsits her sister’s affable hound. Despite joining a sex and love addiction support group, whose members Broder depicts with affectionate sarcasm, Lucy hooks up with one wildly unsuitable man after another. Then, sitting on a rock at the beach and feeling borderline suicidal, she meets a sensitive hunk whose only drawback is that he sports a tail instead of legs. Temporarily, at least, they work out their differences, with Lucy transporting him at night to her beach house in a little red wagon. Broder evokes the details of bad sex in wincingly naturalistic detail, and even if the good sex is a little more soft-focus, it makes for a satisfying fantasy. Broder makes her merman a more complex and believable character than most romantic heroes; her novel is a consistently funny and enjoyable ride. (May)