BOOK REVIEW: When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal

Title: When We Believed in Mermaids
Author: Barbara O’Neal
Publication: July 16, 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 348

SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

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. Her resemblance to Josie is unbelievable. And unmistakable. With it comes a flood of emotions—grief, loss, and anger—that Kit finally has a chance to put to rest: by finding the sister who’s been living a lie.

After arriving in New Zealand, Kit begins her journey with the memories of the past: of days spent on the beach with Josie. Of a lost teenage boy who’d become part of their family. And of a trauma that has haunted Kit and Josie their entire lives.

Now, if two sisters are to reunite, it can only be by unearthing long-buried secrets and facing a devastating truth that has kept them apart far too long. To regain their relationship, they may have to lose everything.


I had been eyeing When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal for months before my book club voted it for our monthly read in September. I was, obviously, not disappointed in the choice.

O’Neal does a great job of setting the scene in this book and not making us wait for the point of the book to be revealed. Right from chapter one that suspense was building. Kit’s personality reminded me a lot of myself from the moment she started explaining herself. Guarded against people, easier to just be by yourself than worry about others, etc. I felt a kinship with her, although I hadn’t been through some of the terrible ordeals she had in her lifetime. When we jumped to New Zealand, I really liked the characters that came into the story. I loved the ties she made to those people and found myself hesitant, but cheering for them none the same. I really did not like Josie, or Mari even, at all. From flashbacks to stories Kit told, Josie was always just a little selfish and got upset when she wasn’t the focus. Mari reminded me of the same and I just never was able to shake it.

I love how O’Neal made me feel things through her book. I enjoy when a book really reached in and grips a specific emotion in me and this one had me on a bit of a rollercoaster ride. While it wasn’t an action packed story, it flowed quickly and didn’t feel boring. I honestly felt the romance aspect of it was more prominent than the main story line of finding Josie. Not sure if that was the goal O’Neal had, but for me that took focus.

Overall I enjoyed this book. I feel like the ending was a bit sudden and that disappointed me a bit, but in the grand scheme of things this book was good as a whole. This is a perfect read on a rainy day when you want to escape to nicer climates and read a little drama and romance. I’ll definitely be checking out more from Barbara O’Neal.


Pick up your copy of When We Believed in Mermaids on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and check your local bookstore. Also make sure to add it to your To Reads list on Goodreads and leave feedback for the author when you are finished. Check out more from author Barbara O’Neal on her website HERE.

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