Summary and book reviews of Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith

Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith X
Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Nov 2016, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

Book Summary

In this breathless and beautifully crafted tale, twelve-year-old Neen Marrey must separate town gossip from town lore to learn the truth about her mother - and herself.

The people of Carrick Island have been whispering behind Neen's back ever since her father drowned and her mother disappeared. The townspeople say her mother was a merrow and has returned to the ocean. Neen, caught in her hazy new in-between self - not a child, but not quite grown up - can't help but wonder if the villagers are right. But if her mother was a merrow, then what does that make Neen?

A Note From The Author

Some of the words in this book are Manx, the talk of the people of Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. This language nearly died out but is now reviving. There are still only two thousand speakers of it in the world. The language of the Vikings is called Old Norse. The author would like to thank Ruarigh Dale of the Centre for the Study of the Viking Age at the University of Nottingham, U.K., for giving Ulf words.



CHAPTER ONE
Wrack

Aunti Ushag said I wasn't fit to be around. She said it was beyond her how a body could be so prickly and dark. She said it gave her the Screaming Purples just to look at me, always lying around looking sideways at her like a reptile on a hot rock. That if I couldn't raise myself on my hind legs and help, the least I could do was go away and leave her to it.

Honor Bright, all I said was I wished she'd open her mind a bit and that she didn't know all about everything. I said she couldn't prove that our Marrey great-grandmother ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Why is it so important to know who you are and where you came from?
  2. Do you think Neen will ever tell Auntie Ushag what she's realized about the bones they found?
  3. Neen comes to the conclusion that her mother was never a merrow, and that merrows might not even exist. What does she think about Ma Slevin's other stories about the kraken or the changeling that took Scully's place?
  4. All kinds of things wash up on the shores of Marrey Cove. If you were Neen, what would you hope to find as you combed the beach?
  5. Why would we sometimes rather believe in otherworldly explanations than the truth?
  6. At the start of the book, Neen is a dreamer and Ushag is very no-nonsense. But by the end, their roles have switched somewhat: Ushag...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Although some readers may relish the folklore than infuses the novel, others may grow impatient with the slow pacing that results from the numerous stories within the main story. In the end, Neen’s narrative suggests that the stories that sustain us and give us hope, the ones that are most powerful and important, might not always be the ones that are objectively true: “If I didn’t make my own story, there were plenty to do it for me. Some would do it kindly, others any way they could, but I knew now I wouldn’t like it. What I needed was a new story, the right story to say what I knew about Mam; I needed a story in which both lies and facts could turn to truth in my throat.” Merrow isn’t just a mermaid story; it’s a novel about the importance of stories to make sense of our own and others’ lives...continued

Full Review (575 words).

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(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This quiet, introspective novel from Australian writer Braxton-Smith sparkles with lingering imagery and expressive writing.

Booklist
Starred Review. Neen's narrative, crackling with memories, folklore, and flashes of humor, earnestly confronts both the secrets we keep and the truths we seek. A singular story about the singularity of stories - entrancing and extraordinary

School Library Journal
Starred Review. Readers will want to curl up at the feet of this narrator and listen to her spellbinding account. Recommended for all YA collections.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A sparkling paean to the stories we tell - plain and embroidered, fantastical, amazing, true - that get us through the night.

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Beyond the Book

Vikings on the Isle of Man

Godred CrovanOne of the main storylines of Merrow involves the arrival of a man, Ulf, who Auntie Ushag, using her native Manx language, calls a "wiggynagh," or what we'd call a Viking. Like many elements of the novel, this has a basis in historical fact, since the Isle of Man has a significant history of Viking exploration and settlement.

Viking CastleAccording to historian and archaeologist David Griffiths, the Isle of Man's central location in the Irish Sea – nearly equidistant from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales – made it an attractive and strategic destination for the many sea-faring raiders from Scandinavia (known today as Vikings) who raided, traded and settled their way across most of Europe and much of Russia for the best part...

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