Book Review: The Pisces by Melissa Broder
The Pisces is just so, so odd.
It follows our main character, Lucy, a PhD candidate who just seems to not be able to get it together. She’s been working for several years on her dissertation about Sappho, but has lost her passion both for the subject matter and for life itself.
Her stasis goes beyond a failure to launch. It’s not just that she doesn’t want to get on with her adult life. It’s that she seems to have trouble with life in general, to the point that she’s indifferent about the thought of ending it.
“I would say I’m less afraid of dying than I am of life.”
-Melissa Broder, The Pisces
Her sister, Annika, sees a woman in crisis and invites Lucy to housesit their beautiful home on the beach and their beloved dog during the summer. Lucy makes a few attempts at life. She joins a support group for her love and sex addiction, then falls off the wagon in a series of extremely cringe-worthy dates.
The only thing more disgusting than Lucy’s acquiescence to these encounters is the men who propose them in the first place.
And don’t even get me started on the merman. Yes, there’s a merman.
The Pisces manages to take all sexiness out of the frequent graphic sex, making it seem like a dirty, shameful compulsion. And that’s the point, I guess. Lucy doesn’t derive any of the pleasures from life. Nor does she impart pleasure to those around her. Quite the opposite. It took a while for me to distinguish between Lucy’s real life and hallucinations. She’s deeply unlikeable and seems insistent on making all the wrong moves. When I finished, I furrowed my brow and said, “What the hell did I just read??”
I can’t say I enjoyed this book. But I can say that The Pisces affected me.
It’s not a feel-good book. We’re meant to wallow in this ocean of misery and indecision with Lucy, barely treading water. It’s not a good time and it’s nearly impossible to become invested in her journey.
But still, it stayed with me. I wanted to (and still want to) talk through it some more with others who have read it. This would make for a great, if somewhat awkward, selection for a book club.
Published May 2018