When Mermaids Sing
Dust Jacket Hardcover(B/W)
In the early 1970s, religious cults aggressively recruited baby boomers who were coming of age in a new era of experimentation and self-pursuit. Many parents, desperate when a child would disappear into a cult, resorted to hiring a “deprogrammer” who would, usually surreptitiously, “extract” the child from the cult and use deprogramming techniques to convince the child to return to the family. This practice was extremely controversial and often resulted in criminal and civil actions, as well as good newspaper copy.
Larry Brown is a young, self-absorbed junior high school English teacher in Medford, Massachusetts with serious relationship problems. One weekend he meets Jenny, a young woman who is attempting to extract her brother from a cult that has an ashram on Cape Cod. Larry soon discovers that his cousin, Bradley, is a member of the same cult. With the help of Sam Henry, a feared deprogrammer also known as “Black Lightning,” they kidnap Jenny’s brother and Bradley from the ashram and Larry is forced to face the hard reality that his cousin is in a precarious emotional state. Larry’s comfortable liberal principles are tested, and his cherished childhood memories are shattered by the ordeal.
Mark Zvonkovic’s When Mermaids Sing is an interesting look at a time when the world was changing on an almost daily basis. As most of the story takes place within the ivy halls of America, we get to see some of these changes discussed or at least displayed. And a few characters illustrate the dangerous depths to which such ideas can bring a person. Choosing a self-centered character as narrator may turn some readers off, but Zvonkovic’s choice is actually quite brilliant: who better to study the great challenges represented by such a rapidly changing America? If you enjoy literary experiments or interesting character studies, When Mermaids Sing is a book you should enjoy.
--TheDeepening World of Fiction, Copyright 2010, Clayton Bye
"The title of Zvonkovic’s carefully written novel is suggested by a line from John Donne’s playful “Go and Catch A Falling Star.” Catching falling stars and hearing mermaids singing are, in Donne’s thinking, rather unlikely events. Readers of “When Mermaids Sing” may wonder whether substantive change in Larry Brown is also unlikely. As literary fiction, the story relies heavily on theme, interior monologue and a strong sense of place rather than non-stop action on its introspective journey to a powerful conclusion.”
--POD Book Reviews & More, Copyright 2009, Malcolm R. Campbell
To save one's family from a dangerous cult, people will toe the line of the law. "When Mermaids Sing" tells the tale of Larry Brown and Jenny, as they try to save their family members from a cult in Cape Cod. With the help of the unsavory individual known as Black Lightning, they realize there are far bigger issues than cult brainwashing with their family. "When Mermaids Sing" is a choice and highly recommended look into the early 1970s cult hysteria.
--Midwest Book Review, Copyright 2010, Midwest Book Review
Some readers will be disappointed in the lack of action, but the book might hit the right spot for those who are more meditative. When Mermaids Sing strives to be an introspective story and attempts to show the different path individuals take to find their niche in the world. With Larry it’s about maintaining the status quo—a respectable job, a nice apartment and a girlfriend—while Bradley is more open to exploring other avenues to find his nirvana.
--Foreword Review, Copyright 2010, Foreword Magazine
The Clam Shack does not live down to its name; it is actually a pleasing structure on Town Cove, immediately across, and with an excellent view of, the Orleans marina. Many years ago Elmo’s Bait occupied the site where the Clam Shack now sits. Elmo’s Bait was a shack from which Elmo sold bait during the day and plastic buckets of fresh clams in the late afternoon. For this reason many people called the place “Elmo’s Clam Shack.” That’s why the new owners, after they bought the land from Elmo and tore down his shack, called their new structure the Clam Shack. Elmo didn’t care that they dropped his name. With the money he made from the sale, he bought a new house up on the bluff s at Truro, and one rarely sees him in town anymore. We were late arriving in Orleans on account of my mishap with Millie, and Sam Henry was sitting at a table near the restaurant’s big windows facing the bay. Jenny didn’t see him at first because he was reading a newspaper, his back facing the windows and the newspaper obscuring his face. I, of course, had no idea what he looked like and was relying completely on Jenny, but I would never have guessed the man she finally leads me to is he, not only because his back is to the view of the bay, which is how only the locals sit, but also because he is a burly black man in overalls, looking like someone I would have picked for the driver of the wrecker that we parked next to. “Larry, this is Patrick Henry,” Jenny says as he stands to greet us, and to my astonished expression he replies, “I ask people to call me Sam, which is my middle name, because I can’t stand the Patrick Henry jokes.” His broad grin, and the way he holds my hand for an extra moment while he looks directly into my eyes, convinces me that he is a sincere, affable man. He has a soft but strong voice, like you hear from an announcer on a radio station that plays classical music. And all his features are rounded, which gives his countenance an unthreatening demureness. He moves around the table with a gliding motion in order to hold Jenny’s chair. It’s an unusual show of grace for a place like the Clam Shack, and for a man wearing overalls instead of a blue suit with a handkerchief protruding from the breast pocket. I can hardly take my eyes off him. He is Black Lightning. He is the man who, the cults claim, beats their members into submission during his deprogramming attempts. “There is a problem,” he says, immediately after we are all seated.
Mark Zvonkovic grew up in Connecticut and New York and started his working life as an English teacher. He subsequently went to law school and currently practices law in New York City when he is not writing. This is his first published novel.
Dust Jacket Hardcover(B/W)
Perfect Bound Softcover(B/W)