WHEN WE BELIEVED IN MERMAIDS is a book you want to savor, re-read, and gift. I was hooked from the opening line, “I thought my sister was dead until I saw her on the evening news,” and needed to understand the entire story underneath that single sentence.

The writing is gorgeous, and even when the action slows—for a mouth-watering description of food or the sensual moment of a first kiss—the story is a rich page-turner. Not a single word is wasted.

It’s an emotional tale of two sisters growing up in a dysfunctional family and the lost teen boy who briefly becomes their parent figure. Even in the midst of the horrors surrounding the three of them—addiction, abuse, rape—there’s magic. They run wild by the sea, sleep on the beach, tell stories about mermaids, and learn to surf.

But then tragedy strikes, and family secrets pile up to rip the siblings apart. Josie, the eldest, leaves California for Europe, where she apparently dies in a terrorist attack. Or does she?

Fifteen years later, Kit is an ER doctor in Santa Cruz when she sees Josie on the evening news. Behind her is a breaking story of a nightclub fire in Auckland. Taking a leave of absence, Kit, who lives for her work and her rescue cat, Hobo, heads to New Zealand for answers about the sister who abandoned her. But the truth is a complex tapestry that involves sifting through unwanted and traumatic memories, which are gradually revealed in flashbacks.

As the plot moves between the present and the past, WHEN WE BELIEVED IN MERMAIDS becomes a redemptive story, filled with love and hope. And one seriously hot Spanish musician.

It’s one of my favorite novels of 2020.

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