Sonia Faruqi shares a page from the diary of the protagonist of her novel, The Oyster Thief.
Coralline Costaria is a twenty-year-old mermaid who lives with her mother, father, and brother in the village of Urchin Grove. She writes the following entry in her diary about the evening her suitor Ecklon came over for dinner.
I can’t believe I didn’t pick up on any of the hints!
The first hint was when Father said, “This supper is a special occasion.”
But the eighth of July meant nothing to me. Mother had set the table with her finest limestone plates, though, which did suggest that it was an occasion of some sort. But it was not Algae Appreciation Day or Horrid Humans Day. It was not my birthday, nor was it Mother’s or Father’s birthday. That meant it had to be…Ecklon’s birthday—his twenty-sixth! His birthday would explain why he looked particularly handsome this evening, in a jet-black waistcoat with half a dozen large lettered olive shells forming a column of buttons down the center.
We hadn’t been together long enough to have celebrated his birthday together, but he had recently mentioned the surprise party his fellow detectives had organized for him last year. I had neglected to note the date.
How embarrassing that I forgot Ecklon’s birthday, especially given how he spoiled me on my own birthday, a few months ago. He took me to my favorite restaurant, Alaria, where he presented me with The Universe Demystified, the latest book by the stargazer Venant Veritate. (Like a telescope into the universe, The Universe Demystified opened brilliant new galaxies in my mind. Ecklon admires Venant just as much as I do, describing him as “the detective of the universe,” but I still can’t imagine how Ecklon managed to get the book autographed, for the stargazer is known to be just as reclusive as he is illustrious.)
It’s true that my wages as an apprentice apothecary at The Irregular Remedy are meager, but I could still have gotten Ecklon a pen as a gift, perhaps an engraved one, which he could use in taking notes during his investigations. In the absence of any gift, the least I could do was sing. Clearing my throat, I began:
Happy birthday to you
May you have friends old and new
May life jolt success your way
As grand as a manta ray
I smiled at Mother and Father across the table, encouraging them to join along, but Father’s dark-brown eyes squinted at me, and Mother gaped. Undeterred, I continued:
May your sight never fade
Nor your hair gray
Happy birthday to you
May this year all your dreams come true
I clapped — alone.
“My birthday isn’t for another month, Cora,” Ecklon said, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
He had the gall to be enjoying my confusion. Well, I was confused no longer. If it wasn’t his birthday, there was just one other possibility that would make this supper a special occasion. But I didn’t want to be wrong again; hoping to obtain a hint, I asked, “How was work?”
His work was more than fine, I know. He’d been promoted four times during his six years at Urchin Interrogations, the local Detective Department of the Under-Ministry of Crime and Murder. Just a few weeks ago, his boss, Sinistrum Scomber, a middle-aged merman with an enormous nose and perpetual grimace, had told Ecklon that he was the best detective Urchin Interrogations had ever hired. Sinistrum had sworn that as soon as Ecklon solved his next case, he would tenure him, making Ecklon the youngest detective to ever hold a lifetime position at Urchin Interrogations.
“You got tenured, didn’t you?” I gushed.
“Not quite, no…”
If it wasn’t his birthday and he wasn’t promoted, what else was there to celebrate?
Coralline is a mermaid who is engaged to the merman of her dreams. But when an oil spill wreaks havoc on her idyllic village life, her little brother falls gravely ill. Desperate to save him, she embarks on a quest to find a legendary elixir made of starlight.
Izar, a human man, is on the cusp of an invention that will enable him to mine gold and diamonds from the depths of the ocean. His discovery will soon make him the richest man on earth — while threatening merpeople with extinction. But then, suddenly, Izar finds himself transformed into a merman and caught in a web of betrayal and intrigue. Meeting Coralline in the ocean, he decides to join her on her quest for the elixir, hoping it will turn him human again.
The quest pushes Coralline and Izar together, even though their worlds are at odds. Their pasts threaten to tear them apart, while a growing attraction adds to the danger. Ultimately, each of them faces an impossible choice. Should Coralline leave her fiancé for a man who might betray her? And Izar has a dark secret of his own—one that could cause him to lose Coralline forever.
Sonia Faruqi pushes the boundaries of imagination in her debut novel, The Oyster Thief. She is also the author of Project Animal Farm, a work of critically acclaimed investigative journalism about the world’s food system. A skilled storyteller and speaker, she lives in Toronto. She graduated from Dartmouth College and previously worked on Wall Street.