Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Mermaids is an 1986 novel written by authoress Patty Dann . The book was her first and won numerous awards. It is narrated by 14-year-old protagonist Charlotte who lives with her mother, Mrs. Flax, and her 8 year old sister Kate. Mrs. Flax is a sexually promiscuous woman who is constantly getting herself into situations that she flees from by uprooting the family and relocating. Charlotte and Kate come from different fathers; Charlotte's left when she was just a girl, while Kate's, an Olympic swimmer, fled before her birth.
The story is told in the first person as the Flax's move into a new home near a convent. Charlotte, constantly on the search for a religion to follow (the family is Jewish,) develops an obsession with Catholicism and decides to be a nun. This is mostly a byproduct of her desperate desire to be different from her mother, and contradictory to her own budding womanly desires. These are particularly strong for the much older and ruggedly handsome Joe, a handyman and schoolbus driver.
The story, set in the 1960s, culminates in Charlotte's ultimate act of rebellion as she (and her 8 year old sister) get drunk and head over to the convent. Charlotte makes love to Joe in a church tower and Kate nearly drowns to death in a river running through the property. The tale is a cautionary one, symbolizing mother-daughter relationships and the importance for parents to confess their mistakes so that their children are not doomed to repeat them.
Mermaids is also s 1990 movie directed by Richard Benjamin and starring Cher(Mrs. Flax,) Bob Hoskins, Winona Ryder (Charlotte) (who was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actress for her role) and Christina Ricci (Kate.)
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