When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal


When I read this description on the jacket of the book  I was instantly hooked before I started it:

“Her sister has been dead for fifteen years when she sees her on the TV news…
Josie Bianci was killed years ago on a train during a terrorist attack. Gone forever. It’s what her sister, Kit, an ER doctor in Santa Cruz, has always believed. Yet all it takes is a few heart-wrenching seconds to upend Kit’s world. Live coverage of a club fire in Auckland has captured the image of a woman stumbling through the smoke and debris. ”

Our main characters are Kit and Josie Bianci.  Josie supposedly died in a terrorist attack on a train in Europe.  Her younger sister Kit accepted that after much searching. Fifteen  years later Josie’s face is clearly captured by a news crew while covering a club fire in Auckland. She had a distinguishing scar across her forehead from an injury during an  earthquake in San Francisco when she was 15 years old so, it’s definitely her.

Kit’s mother asks her to go to New Zealand and search for Josie. The story goes back and forth between Kit and Josie’s memories of each other, growing up and how awfully negligent their parents were when they were young. Through the back and forth, memories from 1967 and present day 1997, you get an idea of how they were shaped and their devotion to one another. It’s a very detailed book with wonderfully descriptive writing.

As you can guess, without this being a true spoiler, Josie has another life now. You start up with her story in New Zealand and learn about this amazing place called Sapphire House.

The Sapphire House is described in vivid detail. The former home of  movie star Veronica Parker, tragically murdered in her twenties. Veronica’s sister Helen lived in the house after the murder, keeping much of it as if it were a museum with the original furnishings, paintings and books. It wasn’t a dusty old place though, it had been kept immaculately clean.

Journey to the southern hemisphere and immerse yourself in the food, climate and unfolding story of the Bianci siblings. I found myself reading this any chance I had to pick it up.   Laced with betrayal and secrets, I was hooked and would like to find more by this author.

Note:  There were a few things I did not care for and think it could have been just as good a story with the absence of such.  On Goodreads I can employ the Spoiler mode but I haven’t figured out how to do that here so…those observations will be on Goodreads.

If you like seeing food pop into a story this one may be for you. The Bianca parents owned a restaurant so this book is filled with delectable dishes, inspiring me to head to the kitchen and get busy.

Green pepper and onion omelette
Blueberry muffins
Swordfish rolls, stuffed artichokes, arancini
Wine, antipasti of mozzarella, curls of salami, a tumble of olives and fresh tomatoes with flatbread. Gnocchi With peas and mushrooms.

Stuffed squid, pasta with bread and herby olive oil.
Roasted Padrón pepper and stuffed olives with bread
Vermicelli alla Siracusana ( eggplant, red peppers, olives, Parmesan with preserved lemon
Cauliflower salad and chocolate cake
Roast chicken with vegetables, carrots studded with feta, tomato salad, rice with lentils

Brik– egg, tuna and preserved lemon with harissa in pastry

I intended to start with the eggplant dish but I didn’t get an eggplant in time.  The gnocchi was defininitly gettibg made as it would be an easy one to take camping in the future, so I gave that a dry run. Oh my.  If you like gnocchi you might want this one. Recipe may be viewed at Babaganosh. Next time I make this I want to add loads more mushrooms and peas.

Much thanks to my friend Stacy who kindly sent me this book. Sharing with Marg at The Intrepid Reader for Weekend Cooking.


16 thoughts on “When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal

  1. Ooh, I’m getting lots of eggplant from the garden so I will check out that dish. The gnocchi, however, looks delicious. Will check out that recipe, too. Glad to read about this one. Will run over to GoodReads and check that out. I need to know what I’m in for. 🙂 I have enjoyed O’Neal’s other books I’ve read.

    Liked by 1 person

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