Debut novelist MZ marries fantasy with the everyday in her contemporary novel of a Maine lobstering town whose local myths come to life.
They say Mackerel Sky was founded when Captain Burrbank first saw Nimuë the Mermaid and forgot the sea. Stricken by love, he moored his tall ship and made camp on the highest cliff, hoping to forever gaze upon her beauty. That camp became a settlement, the settlement a town, the town a community both blessed and cursed by their tempestuous affair.
Three hundred years later, the legend of the Mermaid and the Captain who loved her still invigorates and haunts the inhabitants of the small Maine lobstering town. Take gruff widow Myra Kelley, who finds herself the de facto guardian of Leo Beale and knows his drunken antics are really attempts to escape an opiate-addicted mother and her boyfriends. Or Derrick Stowe, the town’s star pitcher, who wants nothing more than to read his mother’s musings on mermaids, write poetry to his secret boyfriend, and come out to his father, though he will learn how devastatingly small small towns can be. Or the oft-institutionalized Manon Perle, whose gorgeous, detailed quilts of the Mackerel Sky legend belie the terrible pain of—as she claims—having given her only child to the women in the waves.
In this close-knit town famous for its infamous mermaids, community is built through love and lore—willful elements that the townsfolk will have to harness if Mackerel Sky is to endure for another three hundred years.
About the Author
MZ (Emily Zack) is a choreographer, a classically trained ballerina, and a contemporary and burlesque dancer. She lived in Alsace, France, during her childhood, and earned her BA in French from the University of Southern Maine and the Université Catholique de l’Ouest in Angers, France. Over the twenty years she joyfully taught the French language to middle school students, her style was a unique blend of storytelling, creative arts, and hedgehogs. She studied theater at the Tisch School of the Arts and received her MFA in creative writing from Lancaster University in England and now lives and performs in Portland, Maine, where she can feel the sea, with her husband, two daughters, and pet menagerie.
"Mackerel Sky is no ordinary Maine fishing town. It's been cursed for years by a vengeful mermaid, and the town’s residents each have their burdens to bear. Mackerel Sky’s star pitcher, Derrick Stowe, is hiding his sexuality while aching for his lost mother. Manon Perle has never been the same since she gave her daughter to the sea—born with fused legs, little Nimue died when she was only four. And Leo, a teen neglected by his drug-using mother, falls into an unexpected friendship with Myra Kelley, a senior citizen who may hold the key to breaking the mermaid’s curse. As the novel unfolds, readers learn more and more of the legend. Manon’s daughter was named for that jealous mermaid queen who exacted revenge and destruction upon the town after her human lover spurned her. Other residents are connected to the old stories in different ways, and their secrets spin out as the characters grow closer. The people of Mackerel Sky are gentle with each other in their shared grief, and ultimately, they learn to create their own hope. Arresting, lyrical, and deeply emotional, MZ’s debut will captivate readers of Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January (2019)." —Booklist (Starred review)
“Heart-wrenching realities ground the magic and wonder of this impressive debut fantasy […] Personal and civic tragedies, past and present, weave together into a remarkable tapestry as the connections between all the threads become clear—and the town’s mermaid myths prove all too real. A graphically violent episode in the story’s second half is horrifyingly well realized and will rattle many readers. This is an ambitious and memorable venture from an intriguing new voice.” —Publishers Weekly
“An enchanting tale of grief and hope, the myths that thread our lives together, and the love that anchors us. As powerful and sparkling as the sea.” —Emily Jane, bestselling author of On Earth as it Is on Television
"Exquisite. In prose as haunting as any siren's song, MZ brings to shimmering life the seaside town of Mackerel Sky, where the legendary exists seamlessly beside the everyday. Readers will find themselves seeking out the wonder in their own lives after reading this beautifully wrought, hopeful debut." —Molly Greeley, author of Marvelous