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Authors: Erika Marks

The Mermaid Collector

BOOK: The Mermaid Collector
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“An elegant and enchanting story about rescuing ourselves by saving each other, and a beautiful reminder of the magic and mystery we hold in our hearts.”

—Eleanor Brown,
New York Times
bestselling author of
The Weird Sisters

The Mermaid Collector
had me immediately transported to the windswept cove at Cradle Harbor, feeling the mist on my face and the sand under my feet—and looking for mermaids at every turn.”

—Sarah Jio, author of
The Violets of March
The Bungalow



“Spicy, delicious, and filled with surprises,
Little Gale Gumbo
is a wonderful stew, a debut novel that will fill you with joy. Put it on your reading menu and enjoy!”

—Adriana Trigiani,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Don’t Sing at the Table
Big Stone Gap

“A debut like this doesn’t come along often—this is women’s fiction to be savored…a winner.”

Library Journal
(starred review)

“Built on a roux of charm, intrigue, and family secrets, Erika Marks delivers a savory blend of romance and suspense, bringing New Orleans to Maine in a delectable debut novel.”

—Sally Koslow, author of
With Friends Like These

“Seamlessly shifting in time to reveal the layers of a mystery, this is a poignant story of an unforgettable family bound by secrets, fierce love, and a dash of voodoo.…Erika Marks is a shining new talent, and she has written a novel full of heart and grace.”

—Rae Meadows, author of
Mothers & Daughters

“I loved this novel like crazy. With its irresistible settings—from New Orleans to an island off the coast of Maine—unforgettable characters, and heartfelt exploration of love, family, and secrets, [this] is one of my favorite novels of the year.”

—Melissa Senate, author of
The Love Goddess’ Cooking School

“This story is simply sublime.…The story itself was gorgeous. The characters are complex and unique, and the sacrifices each one made for the other were heartbreaking.”

—Fresh Fiction

“Dahlia and Josie are rich, complex characters.…The plot pulls the reader right along, trying to figure out what really happened between the two men, as well as what might still happen for the sisters and their love interests…recommended.”

—Devourer of Books

Little Gale Gumbo
is written in the spirit of Adriana Trigiani’s bighearted family sagas.…The relationships are complex, substantial, fraught with complications and uneasy answers, but ultimately satisfying.…While food plays a central role in this novel, in the end the strength of the story is in how it portrays the healing love between broken hearts, the power of that love to heal in unexpected ways.”

—Reader Unboxed

Written by today’s freshest new talents and selected by New American Library, NAL Accent novels touch on subjects close to a woman’s heart, from friendship to family to finding our place in the world. The Conversation Guides included in each book are intended to enrich the individual reading experience, as well as encourage us to explore these topics together—because books, and life, are meant for sharing.

Visit us online at

Also by Erika Marks

Little Gale Gumbo



NAL Accent

Published by New American Library, a division of

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,

Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

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Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:

80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published by NAL Accent, an imprint of New American Library,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

First Printing, October 2012

10   9   8   7   6   5   4   3   2   1

Copyright © Erika Marks, 2012

Conversation Guide copyright © Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2012

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.



Marks, Erika.

   The mermaid collector/Erika Marks.

      p. cm.

   ISBN: 978-1-101-60559-2

  1.  Wood-carvers—Fiction.   2.  Mermaids—Fiction.   3.  Man-woman relationships—Fiction.   4.  Family secrets—Fiction.   I.  Title.

   PS3613.A754525M47 2012

   813’.6—dc23   2012013248

Set in Cochin

Designed by Catherine Leonardo

Printed in the United States of America


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

   The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.



To my little mermaids, Evie and Murray

Table of Contents




















Friday Night



About the Author

Letter to Lydia Sprague Harris, wife of lighthouse keeper Linus James Harris, dated August 2, 1888: (Property of the Cradle Harbor Historical Society)

My dearest Lydie,

By the time you find this letter, I will be returned to the sea.

These last months back on land have been filled with an unbearable duplicity. I have tried my best to remain your devoted husband, to tend to you as a man should tend to his wife, as I did without question and with absolute joy in the days and years before my voyage, but I can see that my charade has not served either of us well.

Some of what we told you all, our dear and most precious wives, about that bright and flawless day we set sail was true; we did indeed chart a course for Hope Island, and we did find the seas calm and forgiving. We did dine well on the ham and Indian pudding you packed for us, and we did ponder the future and all its promise under the vast periwinkle sky.

But it is there that the truth stops. What transpired next, and for all the time afterward, we have hid from you, certain that our rapture would fade, or prove only the stuff of an extended dream. But we four now know that we cannot bury
the truth of our hearts any longer. What has happened to me and my fellow sailors since that strange day can never be explained, let alone understood, for I myself can barely do either; yet there is no escaping it, any more than we can escape the beckoning of the sea, or the songs of our saviors who dwell just beneath its mighty waves and plead nightly for our return.

My dear wife, you know I am not a foolish man, nor one bereft of the truths of science; yet every rational thought has abandoned me. I have left you my log book, for the confession that it contains is an unspeakable one, which is why I can only put it to paper and hope that it will offer you and our son a modicum of peace after I am gone, even if it is only as a lasting tribute to my madness. Whatever the reason, you and Henry deserve better than a man whose heart has been torn from him and left to float among the waves like driftwood, sunbaked and weathered, parched of all its weight and worth.

I do not expect forgiveness in this lifetime or the next. But know that while I was on land, dry and human, I was truly blessed to be a husband and father.

Good-bye, dear Lydia. May we all find our place on this earth, by land or by sea.


It is a sad fact that mermaids are often
drawn to human men, falling deeply in love
with them, then forgetting with equal speed, and
dire consequences, that no matter their devotion,
human men cannot breathe underwater.

—The Mermaid Mutiny and More:
A Complete History of Cradle Harbor

To: [email protected]

From: [email protected]

Dear Mr. Grace,

As we have indicated in our many phone messages, this news of your inheritance of the lightkeeper’s house has all of us at the Cradle Harbor Historical Society shocked and alarmed.

For years we have been under the impression that Frank Hammond intended to bequeath the historic building to the town in the event of his passing. While I do understand that the prospect of opening one’s home to tours might seem intrusive, surely you can appreciate our wishes to see the Harbor’s heritage preserved and displayed. With the Mermaid Festival just weeks away, it is of the utmost urgency that we speak with you as soon as possible about the matter.

We have a wonderful and comprehensive history of our town, which I wrote my first year as president of the historical society, entitled
The Mermaid Mutiny and More: A Complete History of Cradle Harbor
. If you would be so kind as to forward me your address, I will have one sent to you promptly. I think you will find the book enlightening. I also implore you to visit our online archives and learn more about our town’s precious heritage, as well as that of our beloved keeper’s house, in the hope that you might reconsider your position on prohibiting future visitors to the property.

We very much look forward to your response, as well as your impending arrival. I have no doubt we can work together and come to a fair and mutually agreeable solution to this problem.

Sincerely yours,

Edith Hawthorne, President

Cradle Harbor Historical Society
212 Main Street
Cradle Harbor, ME

BOOK: The Mermaid Collector
13.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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