The Oyster Thief – In Brief
There isn’t often a book that both successfully educates as well as entertains, however, The Oyster Thief managed to do both deftly. Taking place deep in the Atlantic Ocean, the novel depicts the life of Coralline, your typical directionless, inattentive, forgetful mermaid who is on the hunt for a life that’s less conventional than what is on track for. Spending her whole life in the underwater village of Urchin Grove, as picturesque as it may be, wasn’t what she wanted, and her job as an apothecary’s apprentice at The Irregular Remedy has her underpaid and vastly underappreciated. Coraline needed to get out, but when she finally does, it wasn’t as how she planned.
Living on land, Izar has a promising career as the son of the president of Ocean Dominance, a company that seeks only to exploit the ocean first for fish, then oil, and now for minerals. Based on his own inventions, Izar and his adopted family will soon become rich beyond their wildest dreams, and will truly live up to the name of their company as they become maritime masters. However, he too is unfulfilled, and things quickly take a turn for the worse. Worlds collide when tragedy strikes, and what happens next is an epic journey of a motley crew across the ocean filled with murder, intrigue, and action.
A story about love, guilt, and secrets, Faruqi paints a fascinating underwater world. Battling consumerism influenced by her mother, and complacency instilled by her father, Coralline turns inward for genuine understanding and love, realizing that she herself is a source of light.
Faruqi’s gripping plot, meticulous research, and unwavering attention to detail will pull in even the biggest of skeptics of a book about mermaids. During the many action scenes of the book, The Oyster Thief does an incredible job of developing tension both on the land and underwater. Faruqi seamlessly splices between both settings while simultaneously increasing suspense and advancing the plot. The characters and their relationships with each other are complex, relatable, and multi-dimensional, struggling with real issues and conflicting thoughts that someone in their position would face.
The Oyster Thief‘s foreboding tone depicts a world not too far from our own, a world where companies exploit the ocean as an inexhaustible source of food, oil, and minerals rather than a living eco-system in need of conservation. However, in some of Faruqi’s portentous prose she might have predicted the future, some companies are starting to mine the ocean depths of minerals.
For the environmentalist, it is apparent that Faruqi did extensive research when writing The Oyster Thief. While reading, it is easy to find little breadcrumbs of her exhaustive process, and she perfectly creates her own world while weaving in amazing biological facts about sharks, algae, coral, and other biological life. We are left with oceanic knowledge even in the final passages of the book, all while perfectly tieing it into the plot—
“The whale tail is different from the fish tail because, although whales entered the oceans many millions of years ago, they’re still outsiders…whales did not evolve from fish, but from mammals who left land for water, and so their tail continues to carry the up-and-down motion of their ancestral legs”
A Beautiful World
The A Beautiful World section is particularly helpful for aspiring writers, where Faruqi walks the reader through her process and explains how she came to the conclusions that she did so they would work well with the plot while also being factually correct. Each decision that she made layered on more and more required research. Since she set it in the Atlantic Ocean, every animal and algae mentioned in The Oyster Thief needs to be found in the Atlantic. The merpeople ate kelp and algae that are truly edible, and money is in the form of shells actually used as currency in some regions. Faruqi isn’t messing around.
Prologue: The Start of A Journey
Much like Coralline’s transformation of coming into her own, Faruqi includes an amazing prologue where she speaks about going from an Ivy League-educated investment banker to being a critically acclaimed sustainability thought leader, author, and speaker. Her first book, Project Animal Farm: An Accidental Journey into the Secret World of Farming and the Truth About Our Food, spawned from an intended week-long volunteer effort into an extensive exposé on farming culture and food production. Along with A Beautiful World section, it’s deeply inspiring for aspiring writers to read of the process and steps that got her to this point.
All in all, The Oyster Thief is both a marvelous escape into another, more beautiful world, and also a look into a dystopian future of human over-consumption and destruction. Faruqi merges the perfect cautionary tale against greed through absolutely beautiful storytelling, engaging the readers in a world unlike any other.
Interview with Sonia Faruqi
In this podcast, I sit down with critically acclaimed author Sonia Faruqi, where we talk about ocean conservation, her writing process, and her newest book The Oyster Thief.