The Pisces (Broder)

The Pisces 
Melissa Broder, 2018
288 pp.

Lucy has been writing her dissertation on Sappho for nine years when she and her boyfriend break up in a dramatic flameout. After she bottoms out in Phoenix, her sister in Los Angeles insists Lucy dog-sit for the summer.

Annika's home is a gorgeous glass cube on Venice Beach, but Lucy can find little relief from her anxiety—not in the Greek chorus of women in her love addiction therapy group, not in her frequent Tinder excursions, not even in Dominic the foxhound's easy affection.
Everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer while sitting alone on the beach rocks one night.

But when Lucy learns the truth about his identity, their relationship, and Lucy’s understanding of what love should look like, take a very unexpected turn.

A masterful blend of vivid realism and giddy fantasy, pairing hilarious frankness with pulse-racing eroticism, The Piisces is a story about falling in obsessive love with a merman: a figure of Sirenic fantasy whose very existnce pushes Lucy to question everything she thought she knew about love, lust, and meaning in the one life we have. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1979-1980
Where—Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, USA
Education—B.A., Tufts University; M.F.A., City College of New York
Awards—Pushcart Prize
Currently—lives in Los Angeles, California

Melissa Broder is the author of the essay collection So Sad Today and four poetry collections, including Last Sext, and a 2018 novel, The Pisces.

Her poetry has appeared in POETRY, The Iowa Review, Tin House, Guernica, and she is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize. She writes the "So Sad Today" column at Vice, the astrology column for Lenny Letter, and the "Beauty and Death" column on She lives in Los Angeles. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
Melissa Broder writes about the void. She approaches the great existential subjects—emptiness, loneliness, meaninglessness, death and boyfriends—as if they were a collection of bad habits. That's what makes her writing so funny. And so sad.… Broder carries us along, even as we shake our heads. The book…has great momentum, like waves hitting the rocks.… Broder's preoccupations—and sometimes her prose—mirror her essays and poetry and tweets, but she has also allowed her social-media style and substance to blossom. The Pisces is part satire, part fairy tale and, sometimes jarringly, part meditation on addiction. Lucy longs for what is unattainable in life and so is drawn to the soothing darkness of death. She is an idealist who can't help noticing that nothing is ideal.
Cathleen Schine - New York Times Book Review -

A page turner of a novel.… The Pisces is many things: a jaunt in a fabulous voice, a culture critique of Los Angeles, an explicit tour of all kinds of sex (both really good and really bad).… Broder’s voice has a funny, frank Amy Schumer feel to it, injected with moments of a Lydia Davis-type abstraction.
Washington Post

It’s a knife-tip dissection of 21st-century anomie, and its clear-sighted depiction of muddy-headed people makes for bracing reading—like a dip in the freezing, salty sea.
Guardian (UK)

The dirtiest, most bizarre, most original works of fiction I’ve read in recent memory.

Time for the easiest game of "if you loved this movie, read this book" ever: If you loved The Shape of Water,…you should definitely read The Pisces by Melissa Broder, a book about fish sex…[The Pisces offers] an exploration of how deeply impacted we all are in the corrupted world, and how far we’d have to swim to escape it.
Huffington Post

Explosive, erotic, scathingly funny…Its interspecies romantic intrigue buttresses a profound take on connection and longing that digs deep.
Entertainment Weekly

[A]n alternately ribald and poignant fantasy.… Broder evokes the details of bad sex in wincingly naturalistic detail, and even if the good sex is a little more soft-focus, it makes for a satisfying fantasy. [A] consistently funny and enjoyable ride.
Publishers Weekly

This anticipated first novel from poet/essayist Broder is hilariously narrated.… Those who take the plunge will be rewarded with a wild ride from a narrator whose sardonic outlook reveals profound truths about the nature of the self. —Kate Gray, Boston P.L., MA
Library Journal

(Starred review) In her first novel, essayist, poet, and Twitter-star Broder (So Sad Today, 2016; Last Sext, 2016) wraps timeless questions of existence—those that gods and stars have beseeched to answer for millennia—in the weirdest, sexiest, and most appealing of modern packaging. Brilliant and delightful.

(Starred review) [A]t once intimate and sharp, familiar and ugly. Lucy dares you to recognize your [own] thoughts, fantasies, and obsessions …in life and love.… A fascinating tale of obsession and erotic redemption told with black humor and biting insight.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. Early on, Lucy’s reliance on hope manifests in an affinity for crystals, psychics, and other spiritual entities. How does this evolve throughout the book?

2. Why do you think Lucy overdosed? Was she trying to hurt herself?

3. What does Lucy’s uncertainty about her thesis reveal about her? Do you think finishing it would offer her a sense of closure?

4. After joining a therapy group, Lucy jokingly thinks that the meaning of loving yourself is being repellant to others. Do you agree with her? How do she and the other group members exhibit their self-love?

5. Did you find Lucy’s desire for closeness and fulfillment relatable? Are these feelings normal?

6. When Theo reveals that he is a merman, he assures Lucy that "you aren’t hallucinating …in a way you were hallucinating before you met me in the sense that there was only one part of life you could see" (p. 139). What part of life did Lucy see before understanding who and what Theo is, and what part of life does she see after?

7. Lucy wonders if it is possible to be used while using someone. Who is she using, and who is using her?

8. What does Theo symbolize within the context of Lucy’s life? Do you think there is a particular reason he entered her life when he did?

9. Do you think Lucy learns anything from her brief encounters with Adam, Garrett, and Chase?

10. Of the members of her therapy group, Lucy feels most connected to Diana and Claire. Are these friendships helpful or harmful?

11. Do you think the support group has helped Lucy? What do Dr. Jude and its members teach her about herself?

12. Why do you think Jamie tries to reconnect with Lucy? Does she have any remaining feelings for him?

13. Lucy describes many types of love: a feeling of sisterly love felt between her and her sister, Diana, and Claire, a pure form of love between herself and Dominic, and the love she shares with Theo. How do these different types of love and relationships compare? Which type of love is most present in her life, and which is most important?

14. Lucy hypothesizes that "the only way to maybe have satisfaction would be to accept the nothingness and try not to put anyone else in it" (p. 104). Is it possible for her to accept the empty spaces in her life without attempting to fill them?

15. Why do you think Annika is so invested in Dominic? What does her reaction to his death say about her relationship with Lucy?

16. Do you believe that Theo is really what and who he claims to be? Do any of his actions indicate otherwise?

17. Ultimately, Lucy decides to return to her sister’s home rather than living with Theo or returning to Phoenix. Do you think this was the right decision?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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