Reading Group GuideFalse Mermaid by Erin Hart
1. False Mermaid
opens with a newspaper article about the disappearance of a young Irish woman believed by some to have been a selkie (a seal temporarily transformed into a human). What ideas and images did this newspaper article bring to mind? How did the piece set up or color your impressions about how the novel would take shape?
2. What parallels do you see between the murder of Nora’s sister in Saint Paul, and the hundred-year-old disappearance of Mary Heaney, the young Donegal woman who was rumored to be a selkie? How relevant is the selkie story to the tale of Mary Heaney, or to Tríona Hallet’s death?
3. Nora believes that her brother-in-law Peter Hallet had some sort of power over her sister Tríona. Do you agree? Discuss Peter and his relations to the women in his life, including Tríona, Miranda, and Elizabeth.
4. Nora remembers what Tríona said, that Peter’s behavior seemed harmless at first, but that she ‘let things go too far.’ What do you think Tríona meant by this? Do you think it’s possible that she still loved her husband?
5. What sorts of experiences and connections do Elizabeth, Tríona, and Nora have with seals in the novel? If the one-eyed seal is a symbol, who or what do you think it represents? What does Cormac discover about his own previously unknown connec