Jen Grow’s debut collection, My Life as a Mermaid, won the 2012 Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Competition. She is the Fiction Editor of Little Patuxent Review. Her short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Writer’s Chronicle, Other Voices, The Sun Magazine, GSU Review, Hunger Mountain, Indiana Review and others. She’s received two Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council and her stories have earned nominations for Best New American Voices and a Pushcart Prize.
My Life as a Mermaid and Other Stories, Jen Grow's stirring debut collection and winner of the Dzanc Short Story Collection Contest, takes a look at the dark side of what it means to live 'happily ever after.' In these twelve stories, many of the characters—among them, a suburban wife, an alcoholic mother, two homeless men, and an injured veteran—grapple with being voiceless and feeling trapped. The image of water shows up in many of these stories representing both the safety of the womb and the threat of drowning. The title story juxtaposes the lives of two sisters: one a suburban wife and mother, the other a relief worker in Honduras. In "Joe Blow," two homeless men confront the gentrification of their neighborhood when the abandoned truck that theycall home is towed away. "What Girls Leave Behind" is an alcoholic mother's account of how she lost custody of her daughters. The story "Fixed," inspired by the Patti Smith song "Don't Say Nothing," is a young woman's attempt to fit in at a party after the grief of losing her boyfriend to a heroin overdose. The narrator of "I Get There Late" tries, in passive-aggressive ways, to cause trouble between a married couple after showing up unannounced in their driveway one night, while the narrator of "Stray" leaves her husband to rendezvous at a motel pool with a man she paints as a clown. "Injured" tells the story of an Iraq war vet who returns home as an amputee, then glorifies war for a reporter. In the final story, "O.K., Goodbye," written in a loop of possible scenarios, a woman's attempts to leave her husband are thwarted by lost keys and car trouble. Yet, she sees hope in her doppelganger, a girl with pink hair who is walking away." A marvelous example of what naturalistic contemporary fiction is capable of, My Life as a Mermaid is a deeply moving, mordantly funny, and throught provoking collection.
Appropriate for grades 7 and up.
Lesson plans for this title are currently in development.