Monday, May 17, 2010



By Michael Lee West is available here on Amazon.
I give this book *****.

This is my 7th book review linked to Food for Thought hosted by the incredibly talented Jain of Once in a Blue Moon and Food with Style. Those of you here for Pink Saturday will find pink scattered about. This post is also linked to Foodie Friday which is hosted by the talented author of this book, Michael Lee West.

I started early~Took my dog~
And visited the Sea
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me
~ Emily Dickinson ~

The title, MERMAIDS IN THE BASEMENT, was inspired from the first lines of Emily Dickinson's poem. The novel is a charming tale of relationships: those between women; those of mothers and daughters; those of fathers and daughters.

Author, Michael Lee West

It's interesting to note that Michael Lee wrote the first version of this book two decades ago. She wasn't satisfied with it, packed it away in a shopping bag, and left it to languish in the attic. Luckily for her fans, Michael Lee retrieved those pages, reworked the plot, and the end result is this delightfully funny and heartwarming novel.

Thirty-three year old Renata, a Hollywood screenplay writer raised in New Orleans and coastal Alabama, has recently lost both her mother and stepfather in a fatal plane crash. Mourning her loss, Renata retreats to her deceased parents' beach cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Michael Lee said, "The title serves as a metaphor for Renata's depression and for the hidden past, bringing the truth out of the darkness, into the light."

Renata has spent six weeks by herself at the cottage working on her screenplay while Ferg, her filmmaker sweetheart, is on location in Ireland filming his current project. With writer's block sabotaging her work, an extra 20 pounds gained from indulging in salt water taffy, and a tabloid story about her sweetheart having an affair with a hot young actress, it's no wonder this character is feeling depressed.

A trip to Point Clear on the Gulf Coast of Alabama to spend time with her grandmother and former nanny, leads to some remarkable family discoveries. With a mug of jasmine tea, plate of gingersnaps, and a family photo album, family secrets begin to unravel.

To complicate matters, Renata's emotionally distant father is about to marry for the fourth time. An engagement party with champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, and a mysterious incident thickens the plot.

Though Texas isn't thought of as being part of the deep south, there were many references in this book that I could easily relate to and laugh about. Where I grew up, no one had cooks or full time help in the home, but the food references . . . yes, indeed. This book is a treasure chest of southern hospitality.

Even though it's not about mermaids, a theme of mermaids is woven through the stories told within this book. Full of references to southern food, MERMAIDS IN THE BASEMENT is a perfect novel for an edible book review.

Much of the stories take place in New Orleans and Louisiana, so I pulled out some appropriate cookbooks.

Crab, shrimp, oysters, and a number of fish dishes came to mind.

But a bowl of shrimp gumbo is what I chose.

Spicy gumbo with garlic French bread

Louisiana Shrimp Gumbo made with a dark roux, shrimp, and okra

And for dessert . . . southern pecan pie

A treat from the mermaids

Sweet, dark, and oh, so rich

Do you hear the song of the siren calling from the deep?

Be cautious or she'll entice you with her sweet voice and lure you to the sea.

If you find yourself on a beach this summer . . .

I recommend you take along a copy of this book and see for yourself how a string of pearls and chocolate covered strawberries put the bride-to-be in a coma.

Michael Lee West, the author of five novels, is a marvelous story teller. Her characters are full of personality, and the words on the pages ooze southern charm. You can visit Michael Lee's web site here. To learn about the simple pleasures of farm life, visit Michael Lee's blog, Designs by Gollum, where you'll find inspiration for interior design, cooking, and setting beautiful tables.

More edible book reviews for today's Food for Thought can be found by clicking here.

I've recently discovered a charming blog full of beautiful poetry and photos. Pop on over to Heart of a Wizardess to enjoy a lovely pinkolicious post and welcome this first time Pink Saturday participant. You'll find a complete list of other Pink Saturday participants @ Beverly's How Sweet the Sound.


The summer we married, my husband was in graduate school, and I was employed as a teacher. We took a portion of our savings that summer and purchased a sailboat. We christened our Catalina 22, “Hyacinths For The Soul” after Saadi’s poem. Our "Hyacinths" provided years of pleasure.


  1. Oh POOP! I'm in the middle of reading Michael Lee's Mermaid book right now & was going to do FFT on it next week! There is NO WAY I'm ever going to be able to think of anything original now. LOL *Stinker!*

    You've done a terrific job, Sarah, of connecting the delicious foods mentioned in the book with your gorgeous photos & descriptions. Now I can't wait to finish the book!

    It is wonderfully written...I love ML's phrasing & descriptive writing style. I also picked up Crazy Ladies to review. Don't you DARE do that one next week!!! LOL :D


  2. I just joined a book club and will be looking for the book I want everyone to read in August. This just might be the one. Thanks for the review!

  3. What a GREAT review! Love everything here...your Mermaid, your PIE~ that slice of pie on the plate with the tail peaking over the top... I LOVE the Atlantic Cafe Specials Sign~ I would like some Oysters Scampi to start before my bowl of your delicious looking Gumbo please!

    I just got this book and like Rett, I saw the title and thought, Oh, No~ I can't do this now, it would be a poor immitation! I guess I'll drown my sorrows in a glass or two of champagne and some decadent chocolate covered strawberries :-)

  4. This is the second reference to this book I have read in the past 10 minutes. It must be good. And you should be a book reviewer for your local paper. This was quite creative.

  5. Wow..fabulous post! Wonderful read! So full of adventure and stories....yay..I am sparked with energy now! Beautiful photos..all those gorgeous shells of yours and the sweet! Wonderful post!! Thankyou for the super generous are a shining star and so wonderful for doing so! have a sparkling day full of magic!! thankyou!!

  6. Hi Sara! Oh, I love Michael Lee's books and I believe this one was my favorite! Now the gumbo and pecan pie looks so delicious! I could eat that for breakfast.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  7. Sarah, you beat me to the punch! I haven't read this one, yet, but I love Michael Lee's books. And isn't she the most beautiful one??? She's got it going both ways, inside and out. Love her and her books and her dishes and her blog and her dog and her son and Dr. G, too! ;-)

    Glad to hear this review, and your gumbo is perfect accompanying it.

    And as far as Texas not being part of the Deep South, you are! If you are one of the eleven, you qualify in my book. Texas seceded in February after the first sister states went out in January. They try to say that Floridians aren't Southern, but Florida was the third state to secede while Tallahassee was the ONLY capital not to capitulate to the invaders. ;-) Can you tell who is a history NUT???

    Happy Pink Saturday...


    Sheila :-)

  8. this is just a wonderfully delicious post. I love everything you've done! And I'm going to read this book this summer! Everything here is Amazing!

  9. Five stars! I'm going right from your comments page to the library webpage to reserve it.
    I look forward to these post!

  10. Great post! Happy Pink Saturday!

  11. Nice review. I have already read Crazy Ladies and getting ready to start Mad Girls in Love. Michael Lee is a very talented writer.

  12. hi sarah, i wanted to thank you for you kind thoughts about my father... i am lucky he had a good long life right up to the very end, you can't ask for anymore... he missed my mother everyday, i hope they are in a great place now.

    its fun to see you sharing mlw book, i adore her southern charms and wit. you have the cutest props too! you must have had a ball doing this! because we all have to chatted with her online it makes her books that much more special~

    i love seeing her words come to life, you did such a fantastic job!

    and your food... i feel like i have been in the sahara this week, oh my, you are just dazzling and glistening colorful fun! your gumbo is almost forcing me out the door to a 5 star restaurant... if my town even had one! and that plate is gorgeous setting it all off... oh what a visual feast~

    and your pie pics, my gosh you are talented!

    THAT WAS FANTASTIC! oh thanks so much for the big BIG smiles, i am so shallow that i love fun pretty things, i just can't help myself... i am sure mlw will be over the moon~

  13. You're right, Jain, I am over the moon. You have captured the book, delighted the eye, and made me hungry! Chocolate covered strawberries, pecan pie, and gumbo have never looked more delicious.
    With heartfelt thanks,

  14. Now that's a great review! Loved how you matched pictures to your words, and how you wove the food references throughout. Your shrimp gumbo literally made my mouth water. I LOVE gumbo. And garlic bread is such a great companion. Well done!

  15. OH MY OH MY ON MY what photos!! that food looks divine I believe I shall have to make a pot of gumbo soon.

  16. What an amazing review! You are genius and wonderfully creative ... Your pecan pie looks incredible and I must now go raid the pecans!

  17. I read this delightful book last year while in the OUTER BANKS!!!! Your pictures made me hungry for gumbo!!! Loved the dishes too (I am a dish-o-holic:):). XO, Pinky

  18. Sarah, that book sounds like a good one to take to the beach. That white sand looks so enticing too! The food looks fabulous; especially the chocolate covered strawberries and the pecan pie! Thanks for sharing and Happy Pink Saturday to you. Hope you're enjoying your weekend.


  19. Fabulous post on a wonderful book! I'm currently at my house in Point Clear area, so this was an especially relevant post for me personally, today!

  20. I just happen to stumble here during my Pink Saturday wanderings. What a great book review and post. I'm in love with everything New Orleans and this sounds like a book I'd enjoy. Thank you and have a great weekend!

  21. I loved the way you wove so many interesting things into this post Sarah! I really must try to get one of Michael Lee's books-they sound really good. Thanks for the fabulous review...I am off make a cup of tea to check out some more Pink Saturday posts! Thanks for having me.

    Best wishes,

  22. What an interesting post Sarah!! I thoroughly enjoyed it and just happened to be looking for a new book to read! Thank you for the review and I think I found it :-)
    I'll for sure be back again soon!!

  23. Wonderful post, and truly is food for thought. Shrimp gumbo and pecan pie are just superb in finishing up a beautiful book review of Michael Lee West..

  24. Enticing preview ... will check this out! Love your presentation ...

    Have a beautiful week.
    TTFN ~ Hugs, Marydon

  25. What a wonderful review! It sounds well worth a read.

    And now all I can think of is gumbo. ;-)

    Have a wonderful Sunday!

  26. Mermaids sounds like a wonderful book! I will have to add that to my list. I LOVE pecan, love, love it!

  27. HI Sarah
    What a lovely post and book review.. another book to add to my wish list.. I have a thing about mermaids.. I guess many have.. not sure what it is.. maybe the mystery.. definitely the pull to the sea... and perhaps the freedom associated with them... thanks for the book tip... and thanks for entering my giveaway and your lovely comments..have a great week xx Julie

  28. Sarah,

    I loved this book. You did an amazing "Food for Thought" post.

    I am reading this very early in the morning and I am starved!


  29. Fabulour post, Sarah ..your review is so rich in description and photographs and food..I really enjoyed it!

    I definitely have "Mermaids in the Basement" on my "to read" list! It sounds like a wonderful book to escape into.

    I adore Gumbo ...some of the best food I've ever eaten was in New Orleans!

  30. Sarah,
    You have me wanting to read this book desperately! What a great review and story you posted and that pecan pie is tdf!!

  31. Dear Sarah
    What a wonderful review of Mermaids in the Basement.
    Your photographs are stunning and compliment your narrative beautifully. I love the tea & biscuits shot, the Mermaid sign, the chocolates.
    Well, actually I love them all!
    I may not be on a SC beach this summer but look forward to taking this book with me into the garden to read in the shade of a chestnut tree.
    Chapeau, Madame,

  32. Hi Sarah, the book looks really interesting. I will look for it.

    All your food pictures are so lovely and so tempting! Your entire post is delightful.

    Have a grand week!

    Barb ♥

  33. I can hardly wait to get the book. She is so MY HERO .....she can do ANYthing her heart desires...and do it well.

    Thanks for this awesome did a fabulous job.
    xo bj

  34. I had shrimp gumbo last night, it was so good. Thanks so much for stopping by and entering my drawing. Your blog name is too cute. I'll be back to visit. Have a great day, Theresa

  35. Happy Pink Saturday, Sarah.

    Your post is beautiful, delicious and enchanting. I have been wanting to read this book. You have inspired me.

  36. Sarah, you are so smart! I read this book, but would never have been able to put together such a creative post about it. Your photos are wonderful and so appropriate for the book. Where in the world did you find that great mermaid restaurant sign? Your gumbo looks so good. laurie

  37. I just made a post-it of this author and title...I am getting an I-Pad and I plan for this to be the first book I download! Thanks for the visit,you are amazing how you are able to use 1 post for about 4 different topics. Kinda like when I write anecdotal records on my kids and use it in 7 or 8 different entries!

  38. That book sounds great. I am not a big reader. I don't like to sit still very long as you can tell by how I keep finding things to do.

  39. Hmmm, I read this last week and thought I left a comment! I am definitely getting some of ML's books to read..Fun to :know" the author even if it is over the net!
    Your treats look wonderful! Now you have to soothe Retta! LOL

  40. Sarah, dropping back by to thank you for your sweet message to Fred. You all made his day! :-)

    And I also want to wish you a Happy Memorial Day. I will be MIA for a few days from my blog, but I will check in with you when I return.


    Sheila :-)

  41. I finished this wonderful book just recently, after recommending it as my first beach read of the year on my blog. Now, how the heck am I supposed to top this review? Chocolate, mermaids and seashells — these are a few of my favorite things.

    Honey, you did the most delicious review I've ever seen, think I'll just send my readers right on over here!

  42. Dear Sarah,
    I am on my way to amazon to purchase Mermaids in the Basement, great review then I am off to the kitchen:)
    Thanks for your visits I always appreciate it.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  43. Oh, Sarah This was one lovely post! I loved it so much! How well this article was written and the photo's to go along with it! Just beautiful!

  44. I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. You portrayed it so beautifully...Christine

  45. What a Beautiful Review...If her book is half as good as your post then it's a best seller! I will be adding it to my MUST READS list along with her others... OH MY and that gumbo and pie...Mmmm, I agree with Shelia, I would have it for breakfast!!! now back over to your PIE POST!!!
    Hugs to you,


Thank you to each of you who take the time to leave a comment. I read and appreciate each and every one and will respond to any questions. Your notes are the only way I know who has stopped in for a visit.