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Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Mermaids of Lake Michigan by Suzanne Kamata - Book Review, Interview & Giveaway

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Review by Suze

It's the 1970s and Elise loves books. She's better with paper than people and her best friends are penpals. She loves Lake Michigan and is fascinated by her family history associated with the water. Elise doesn't socialize much, she likes spending time on her own. Her mother and sister are different in this area. Elise's mother used to be a beauty queen and still longs for those days. She wants her daughters to be popular and thrive, but Elise isn't interested. When Elise's younger sister Amanda starts dating the boy Elise is in love with Elise could definitely use some good in her life. Fortunately Chiara has just moved to town. Chiara doesn't care what other people think of her, she's free, opinionated and wild and she's exactly what Elise needs to come out of her shell.

Elise changes under the influence of Chiara. She becomes more outspoken and finally finds her own style. When being at the carnival with Chiara Elise meets Miguel. He's a gypsy musician working there for a few days before traveling further. There's something brewing between them, but will Elise ever see him again once he moves on? What will be the influence of her new friends on her life?

The Mermaids of Lake Michigan is a beautiful coming of age story. I immediately liked Elise. She's smart and kind. She doesn't have much going on in her life, but fills her days with books. That changes when she meets Chiara. She's finally found someone interesting enough to become friends with. Chiara does whatever she wants and that is something new for Elise. She's a good girl, used to certain rules, but for Chiara there are none, which has a lot more appeal. Of course this new way of life can easily get out of hand and I was really curious to find out what would happen next. I found myself surprised numerous times, which is something I liked a lot.

Suzanne Kamata has written a fantastic story and I loved the vivid way she describes her main characters and their emotions. It wasn't difficult to picture why Elise would feel enchanted by Miguel. I liked the way their connection was being described and it made me anxious to keep reading from the moment they meet. Their relationship has plenty of layers and it's fabulously messy. Elise is growing up quickly and that process was amazing to watch. She has to make her own decisions and life isn't always fair, which is a fascinating theme for a story. I was mesmerized by The Mermaids of Lake Michigan from the very first page and absolutely loved this terrific story.


If you love a good coming of age story The Mermaids of Lake Michigan is a definite must-read.

About Suzanne Kamata

Five-time Pushcart Prize nominee Suzanne Kamata is the author of the novels The Mermaids of Lake Michigan (Wyatt-Mackenzie, 2017), Screaming Divas (Merit Press, 2014), Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible (GemmaMedia, 2013) and Losing Kei (Leapfrog Press, 2008), and editor of three anthologies - The Broken Bridge: Fiction from Expatriates in Literary Japan, Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs, and Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2009). Her short fiction and essays have appeared widely. She was a winner in the novel category of the Half the World Global Literati Award.



1) Can you tell a bit more about yourself?

I’m an American, born and raised in a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan (the one in the book!), now living off-the-beaten-track in Japan. I’ve always been a passionate reader, and I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I have two kids, two cats, and one husband.

2) You married a Japanese man and live in Japan, what’s the best thing about Japan for you and what do you miss most about the USA?

Japan is a very safe place. I appreciate being able to walk around outside at night by myself without fear, and having access to cheap and high quality healthcare. I also admire Japan’s respect for education and educators. Also, the food is good, and people are kind and gentle. I sometimes miss the casualness of America. Here, there are rules for everything, but in the States people are more flexible and tolerant. I really appreciate the diversity of the United States after having lived as a minority for almost 30 years. 

3) The Mermaids of Lake Michigan is a story about a teenage girl who loses her heart, what’s the most inspiring about writing about love at a young age? 

Young love is so intense! At a young age, people don’t think so much about what kind of house they want to live in, or the standard of living they might aspire to, or who’s going to do the dishes. It’s all about the heart, the feelings. When you're young and in love, you are more likely to believe that love can conquer all, including differences in culture, class, religion, and parental opposition. I was twenty-two when I met my husband, and I thought that giving up my country for love was wildly romantic!

4) You’ve traveled a lot, how does that influence your stories?

I like to revisit places that I love in my writing. There is always a lot of travel in my novels, as well as in my short stories and essays. I actually do a lot of travel writing, too. Through my travels I have discovered settings for stories that I have yet to write. I need to come up with a plot to go with the settings!

5) Your family plays a large part in your life and also in your writing, what makes you the most proud of them? 

Both of my kids and my husband have their passions, and pursue them wholeheartedly. Besides being a great teacher, weight-lifting coach. And marathon runner, my husband is really good at golf, and plays in a lot of tournaments. And my daughter loves drawing manga, and is always trying to improve. Right now my son is studying for the intense Japanese college entrance exams, and I am in awe of his discipline and focus. But mostly I am proud of them because they are kind, caring people.

6) What’s the best part about being a professional writer?

Being able to have new and different experiences and to learn new things all the time. And truly, seeing my name in print never gets old. It’s exciting to know that people all over the world are reading my words.

7) You write multicultural stories and culture is a large part of your life, in which way do you think mixed cultures enrich our daily existence?

My family is very multicultural, as my brother married a first generation Indian-American, who has retained a lot of her family’s customs, like celebrating Divali and making naan. And, of course, my husband is Japanese, and I’m American. Learning about my sister-in-law’s family’s traditions and Japanese traditions keeps life interesting. If we are willing to be open to new things, we can learn and grow, and be more accepting and tolerant of differences in others. 

8) The girls in your stories are independent and make their own decisions, which also means they make their own mistakes, what’s so interesting about this topic?

I think perfectly behaved characters who make “good choices” all of the time are boring. We all make mistakes. For me, it’s interesting to get my characters in as much trouble as possible and then try to figure how to get them out of it.

9) Where’s home for you? Is that a place in your heart or a physical place?

I feel at home in my house, where my stuff is – my books, my computer, my coffee-maker. My heart is often yearning for several different places at once, but I feel most comfortable in my house, wherever it may be.

10) Where do you read and where do you write?

I read everywhere – in my favorite red recliner in the living room, in the car when I’m waiting to pick up one of my kids, on the train, on the bus, wherever. I usually take a book with me whenever I leave the house. I used to do a lot of writing in coffee shops, or in the office at the university where I worked, but now I usually write at the computer in my home office.

11) What are your plans for the future?

I want to write more books and travel more. I am working on a historical novel, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m also interested in teaching creative writing to Japanese students. I’ve done a bit of it, but I’d like to do more.


One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a hardcover copy of The Mermaids of Lake Michigan by Suzanne Kamata.

The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. The Mermaids of Lake Michigan sounds like a charming and insightful coming-of-age story.

  2. This must be an interesting read I'm sure. Thanks for sharing so much about yourself.

  3. I LOVED reading about your experiences in Japan! Japan has fascinated me for a long time. I have American Indian blood as well as Caucasian and love stories of multicultural marriages (I myself am an American married to an Irish Brit! :D). My children love Japan because of Pokemon, haha. Maybe one day we'll get our dream and go to visit Japan! Your book sounds really interesting and I love the cover. Take care and have a great day! :)

    1. Thank you so much! And by all means, come and visit Japan!

  4. Such an intriguing cover. And how lucky to be able to experience Japan. Been a dream of mine to go there ever since my mother did and told me all about it. And I love mermaid stories. This sounds particularly interesting as I grew up near Lake Michigan. Never read a book with fresh water mermaids.

    1. I can't take credit for the cover (the artist is Erika Craig), but I love it, too.

  5. this looks intriguing, love the cover and the content sounds absorbing, thanks xx

  6. Suzanne, I love travelling, too. I enjoyed reading your interview.

  7. The story sounds like nothing I've read before and I can't wait to get to it.

  8. I live near Lake Michigan! Definitely want to read this.

  9. Sounds like a great coming of age book. I grew up around Lake Michigan and am equally fascinated by it!

  10. I live in Michigan, I wonder if this book is set in Michigan!!

  11. The book is quite ambiguous but I like the story as Elise sounds like me an introvert. I hate having to talk to people.

  12. Thanks for the chance - Merry Xmas (JB)

  13. This sounds good. I like to read books about fellow bookworms!

  14. I love mermaid stories. I like that this story is set around a lake rather than the ocean.

  15. This sounds awesome, thanks for the review and giveaway!

  16. This sounds like such a good book for me since I am also kinda shy and forever buried in books! :P