Thursday 16 February 2017

Richard reviews Mariah's Song, by Barbara Emanuelson

The author of this book has kindly offered one copy of ‘Mariah's Song’. To be in with a chance to win, just leave a comment below or on our Facebook page (
The draw will be announced about a week after this post.

Cover image, Mariah's Song
Mariah's Song, by Barbara Emanuelson, is primarily intended as a YA book, but can easily be enjoyed by a much wider age range. It is rooted in a place and period of American history about which I knew almost nothing - a fishing village in mid 19th century coastal New England - but this underpinning is done so thoroughly that I soon felt at home. But the history, however authentic, is only the starting point for this lovely tale.

I'm a sucker for Selkie stories, which traditionally come from what we think of as Celtic lands, chiefly Scotland and Ireland. It seemed altogether plausible to me that similar themes might easily arise in the New England fishing communities we read about here. After all, the seal colonies are much the same on both sides of the Atlantic.

It was there that the seals would come. They were there that day, and were a comforting, familiar sight to my eyes... One in particular got my attention. It was a cow. Her head was raised higher than the rest, and she stared at me through the throng. She had beautiful dark eyes that seemed to call me, even though she made no sound.

The story, then, bridges historical fiction and fantasy, and carries the reader along with it. The main character, Mariah, faces difficulties in her community, and has to exercise the ordinary kind of courage needed for navigating through life. There are all kinds of choices to be made, both within her family and also as her romantic life begins to blossom. Such choices are not easy, nor does Mariah always choose rightly.

Monomoy Point Lighthouse, c.1865 (Wiki)
Circumstances have forced maturity on her earlier than we would consider normal today, but which has been the case for many young women throughout history. Surrounded as she is by kindness and cruelty, loyalty and prejudice, she has to choose which to imitate and fashion in her own life, and which to reject. The unfolding events - some of which are acutely painful - challenge her assumptions about life and her future, and draw out from her a growing sensitivity of soul.

But Mariah's life is lived in the liminal zone between two worlds - that of human society and that of the sea. Identifying and choosing the heritage site wants is not an easy task. She is essentially an amphibian, drawn towards two very different futures. On the one hand her life is very ordinary and constrained, but on the other it is full of mystery, enjoying a magical communion with the ocean. She is surrounded by help and support from both sides, but in the end has to make her own decisions.

Seal - Eastern Isles - Scilly
We lifted the nets, one at a time, with me standing in the middle to assist. We heaved as we threw the teeming nets on board. The cod wriggled and jumped, gasping for air, dancing until they moved no more. Soon, the boat was as still as our catch... It took us a few hours to get back to the wharf... Other fishermen were in, some before and some after us... None of them had a catch like ours.

I really enjoyed this book, as much for the immersion in period American life as for the fantasy elements. Mariah becomes a vivid, intensely credible person, and it is easy to prolong the fantasy and imagine her descendants still roaming the Atlantic seaboard. Mariah's Song comes highly recommended by me.

About the author:
Barbara Emanuelson
Barbara Emanuelson  is a retired educator and award winning author of fiction and folklore fantasy. In addition to MARIAH'S SONG, she is the author of the historical fiction  novel, THROUGH TEMPEST FORGED and two short ghost stories, "Blue Like the Water" (TALES FROM THE WASATCH AND BEYOND) and  "The Unveiled Bride" (TALES FROM OGDEN CANYON). As well as writing, she enjoys reading, gardening, walking, and playing the piano. She is the mother of three wonderful daughters. Barbara currently resides in North Carolina with her beloved husband, Reverend Father Jon and two cats, Marzipan and Chimene. The Mariah's Song Facebook page may be found at

About the reviewer:
Richard Abbott lives in London, England. He writes science fiction about our solar system in the fairly near future, and also historical fiction set in the ancient Middle East - Egypt, Syria, Canaan and Israel.

When not writing words or computer code, he enjoys spending time with family, walking, and wildlife, ideally combining all three pursuits in the English Lake District. He is the author of In a Milk and Honeyed LandScenes From a LifeThe Flame Before Us,Far from the Spaceports- and most recently Timing. He can be found at his website or blog, on Google+GoodreadsFacebook and Twitter.


  1. This sounds like a book which should be on my TBR list, even though it's primarily a YA book.

  2. Sounds like an interesting book

  3. Excellent review of what sounds anexcellent book