An Underwater Odyssey
A Globe and Mail “Best Book of The Year”!
Sonia Faruqi had me at the word ‘mermaid.’ The Oyster Thief creates a lush, imaginary underwater world that somehow manages to reinforce the reality of the need for environmental awareness—it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read.
—Jodi Picoult, bestselling author of My Sister’s Keeper
Two worlds collide when a mermaid and human man meet, plunging readers into a vast underwater realm brimming with adventure and intrigue.
“The mermaid’s scales were bronze, and they shimmered like hundreds of pennies arranged close together. Her immense blue-green eyes gave a look of fragility to her face, yet he found her eyes unsettling. She was leaning against a thirty-foot-long shark, which emerged from behind her and opened its mouth to reveal a great big cavern lined with hundreds of teeth—a black tunnel ready to swallow him.”
Coralline is a mermaid who is engaged to the merman of her dreams. But when an oil spill wreaks havoc on her idyllic village life, her little brother falls gravely ill. Desperate to save him, she embarks on a quest to find a legendary elixir made of starlight.
Izar, a human man, is on the cusp of an invention that will enable him to mine gold and diamonds from the depths of the ocean. His discovery will soon make him the richest man on earth—while threatening merpeople with extinction. But then, suddenly, Izar finds himself transformed into a merman and caught in a web of betrayal and intrigue. Meeting Coralline in the ocean, he decides to join her on her quest for the elixir, hoping it will turn him human again.
The quest pushes Coralline and Izar together, even though their worlds are at odds. Their pasts threaten to tear them apart, while a growing attraction adds to the danger. Ultimately, each of them faces an impossible choice. Should Coralline leave her fiancé for a man who might betray her? And Izar has a dark secret of his own—one that could cause him to lose Coralline forever.
Read Chapter One: Fire and Water here!
Magnificent and moving, set against a breathtaking ocean landscape, The Oyster Thief is a richly imagined odyssey destined to become a classic.
The Oyster Thief deftly weaves a mermaid’s tale while bringing real and urgent ocean conservation issues to the reader’s attention. Dive in and enjoy!
—Dr. Sylvia Earle, award-winning ocean scientist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence
- Finalist for 2017 International Book Awards
- Runner-up for 2016 New England Book Festival Award
- Finalist for 2015 Chautauqua Prize
A critically acclaimed work of global investigative journalism
An engaging account about this most secretive of global enterprises.
—J. M. Coetzee, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
Sonia had no idea that the night she arrived at the doorstep of a dairy farm would mark the beginning of a journey that would ultimately wind all the way around the world. Over the course of living with farmers, hitchhiking with strangers, and risking her life, she developed surprising insights and solutions, both about the food industry and herself. Delving into issues of animal welfare, human health, and the environment, Project Animal Farm aims to make the world a better place for all its inhabitants.
People will be talking about this book for decades.
—John Robbins, author of The Food Revolution
Author | Speaker
Sonia pushes the boundaries of imagination in her debut novel The Oyster Thief, an underwater odyssey. She is also the author of critically acclaimed Project Animal Farm, about the world’s food system. A skilled storyteller and speaker, she lives in Toronto, Canada.
- 18 Apr : Beaches Library (Toronto, ON)
- 23 Apr : Diane Frankling Co-op (Toronto, ON)
- 6 May : West Hill United Church (Toronto, ON)
- 4 Jun : Toronto Reference Library (Toronto, ON)
- 12 Jun : Danforth/Coxwell Library (Toronto, ON)
- 9 Sep : Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival (Toronto, ON)
- 25 Sep : Brampton Library (Brampton, ON)
- 27 Sep : Riverdale Library (Toronto, ON)
- 11 Oct : Book Launch Event of The Oyster Thief (Toronto, ON)
- 24 Oct : Northern District Library (Toronto, ON)
- 18 Nov : West Hill United Church (Toronto, ON)
Interested in an event in your area? Get in touch with Sonia at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 25, 2019
May is one of those in-between months; the cold weather still lingers, and because it’s not quite as warm or dry as we would like, it can become difficult to get up and out of the house. I don’t know about you, but spring always makes me want to declutter and try new things! That’s why, this month I’ll be sharing some of the research that went into The Oyster Thief – so we can learn something new together!
MY WRITING PROCESS
Earlier this month I chatted with Josh Cane of “Working Title” Podcast. We talked about my writing process on The Oyster Thief, beta reader feedback, and the importance of real-world research to create an imaginative universe. Learning how to scuba dive while writing the book helped me to get to know the ocean as a living entity, and form a connection between myself, merpeople, and the environment. This hands-on research helped me to create the living community of merpeople and animals you can find in The Oyster Thief! Listen to the full podcast here.
I did a lot of interesting research about the ocean in order to create the setting for The Oyster Thief. The book is divided into three sections based on the three zones of light penetration: The Sunlight Zone, Twilight Zone, and Midnight Zone. The ocean is vastly deep—its average depth is about two miles, or three-and-a-half kilometers—but much of its life, and all of its photosynthesis, is concentrated in what is called the Sunlight Zone, a range of six-hundred-and-sixty feet, or two hundred meters, down from the waves. Half of the surface of the earth consists of the deep sea, which extends more than a mile down under the waves. Of the millions of species thought to live in the ocean, the majority are unknown to us because they live further down than humans can travel.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Sound does exist in the water, as do the other four senses, but it exists differently—it travels farther and four times faster in water than air, making its location difficult to pinpoint.
- There are three kinds of algae—green, brown, and red. Red are the most common, because of their ability to photosynthesize at great depths.
- Coral reefs cover only about 1 percent of the ocean floor but support about 25 percent of the life in the ocean.
- Some fish have anti-freeze proteins that permit their survival in sub-zero environments.
- Whales originated not from fish, but from mammals who left land for water millions of years ago. That’s why they move differently than fish: their tail slaps up and down over the waves instead of swishing right and left like a fish’s.
Did you know that the oceans are home to about ten thousand kinds of algae, and almost all are edible and nutritious? That’s why I’m sharing a recipe with you this month, one that includes spirulina, a green algae superfood that is high in protein, vitamin B12 and iron, and is beneficial to maintaining a healthy brain and keeping our digestive system, heart, lungs and liver healthy.
Spirulina Chia Pudding
2 cups almond milk (or your milk of choice)
1/2 cup chia seeds
2 teaspoons organic spirulina powder (find it here)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 – 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or to taste)
Fruit, granola, nut butter or coconut flakes for toppings
Blend all ingredients together and allow chia pudding to thicken in the refrigerator for up to an hour (for best results chill overnight).
(Recipe credit to www.thesynergycompany.com)
April 20, 2019
With the weather warming up it feels like summer is just around the corner at last! As summer looms and we flock to the green spaces and blue lakes and oceans, it’s important to remember that these spaces aren’t just here for us to enjoy; they’re home to creatures big and small. It’s our duty as humans to take care of them, and allow them to grow and thrive in their natural habitats by respecting the spaces these creatures call home.
This Earth Day, let’s all do our best to help protect this planet and its natural spaces. We can follow the example of Copenhagen, whose city officials are striving to make it the first city in the world to generate more renewable energy than dirty energy by 2025! This would reduce carbon emissions that contribute to greenhouse gases. Learn more here.
With the weather becoming warmer, bees will be waking up from hibernation to begin pollinating. Did you know that bee pollination is required for one in three bites of food you eat? Bees have such an important impact on our daily lives, but they are still suffering from colony collapse! Planting local flowers and stopping the use of pesticides can help; you can learn more here.
THE OYSTER THIEF NEWS
We’ve had some excellent reviews come through for The Oyster Thief recently!
The Girly Book Club says “As soon as I realized that this story involves mermaids I was very excited. I absolutely love stories that take place in the ocean and growing up, The Little Mermaid was my favorite Disney movie! I really enjoyed this novel and found myself “a part of their world.”
A Bookish Type says, “There is a distinctly Potterish vibe to The Oyster Thief…. I absolutely adore the characters. It’s a pity I finished the book because I would love to spend more time under the sea with Izar and Coralline.”
Vacation Idea website gave The Oyster Thief a glowing review, hailing it as an excellent book to read on your next vacation. “The Oyster Thief sees Faruqi flex her creative muscles to make an environmental statement in a different way, giving every reader a truly emotional and thought-provoking experience about what we’re doing to the oceans and their inhabitants.”
With the recent student-led climate change rallies happening all over the world, it’s time to listen to those future generations, who are speaking up for what they believe in: a better future. As Jane Goodall says, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”
March 19, 2019
Spring is a season of youth. It is a time of budding leaves and blossoming flowers, and of young animals who experience the beauty of the planet for the first time. As such, perhaps it’s fitting that last week has been a time of young adults taking center stage among us.
Read on below for more on the student climate strike, Meatless Mondays, and sustainable living tips curated specifically for you.
Also, in celebration and support of World Water Day this Friday, The Oyster Thief e-book will be on sale for $1.99. If you haven’t had a chance to go on spring break or if you’ve just returned from spring break, I believe you’ll enjoy diving in to the deep blue waters of The Oyster Thief! You can get the book on Amazon US here and Amazon Canada here.
Friday, March 15 marked a day of student climate strikes inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden.
“I don’t care about being unpopular,” Greta said in a speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December. “I care about climate justice and the living planet…. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis…. We have come here to let you know that change is coming whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.” You can watch the full, passionate three-minute speech here.
Motivated by her words, students in more than 100 countries skipped school on Friday to demonstrate their concern for the environment. Below is a photo from Zagreb, Croatia.
Continuing on the topic of students, public schools in New York will be starting Meatless Mondays in the 2019-2020 school year. As you may know, my first book Project Animal Farm discusses the poor treatment of farm animals and the ethical and environmental problems created by factory farms.
Meatless Mondays is an initiative I recommend in the book (you can learn more about Project Animal Farm here). Not only will New York’s move save millions of animals and improve human health, but it will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Did you know that animal agribusiness creates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector? It’s food for thought.
WORLD WATER DAY AND THE OYSTER THIEF
World Water Day is this Friday, March 22. Established by the UN, it celebrates the importance of water. This year’s theme is Leaving no one behind and the goal is to ensure that everyone has access to safe drinking water. The Oyster Thief team and I are raising awareness about World Water Day in two ways.
First, as mentioned, The Oyster Thief’s Kindle e-book version is on sale for $1.99 on Friday. The novel highlights the beauty and diversity of the ocean as it tells the adventurous story of a mermaid and human man whose lives intersect and take unexpected turns as they search for an elusive elixir. Learn more about The Oyster Thief here.
Second, we are teaming up with several of our partners and supporters on Instagram to get the word out about World Water Day. Stay tuned @Sonia_Faruqi!
SUSTAINABLE LIVING TIPS
What better time than World Water Day to embark on a new relationship with water and the planet? In case the skeptic in you is thinking why bother, let me tell you why: Because if we don’t, it’s projected that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.
Fortunately, small actions make big differences. Here are examples of actions that you and I can take in our daily lives to reduce our plastic usage and our trash generation:
- When you drink your daily cup (or two) of coffee, fill it in your own mug. Not only will a lot of coffee shops offer you a discount, but I find it a better experience than the disposable cups. Also, coffee shops often have their own mugs; all you have to do is ask by saying, “I’d like my coffee for here.”
- Take reusable bags for your groceries. I keep one or two in my purse at all times, and they fold up perfectly. An added advantage of reusable bags is that they are generally much stronger than plastic bags.
- Who needs a straw? Let’s dump that habit in the trash instead of the straw.
I used to be afraid of looking like a high-maintenance customer, but over the years I’ve realized two things:
- Businesses often prefer environmentally friendly customers because their own costs are reduced.
- Even if I am occasionally met with rolled eyes, I prefer to be categorized as a high-maintenance customer than as someone uninterested in the maintenance of the planet.
Also, the term “plastic-free” is becoming the current equivalent of “no carbs.” It’s not just me who thinks so, but also The New York Times, who wrote an article recently on plastic-free living:
“Treating plastic like a drug habit that needs to be kicked is a lifestyle pledge being shared by more and more consumers, horrified by the tens of millions of metric tons of plastic created worldwide each year, much of it in the form of single-use items like straws, that end up in landfills or, worse, the oceans. As a marketing term, ‘plastic free’ is emerging as the new ‘no carbs.’”
And if we’re still afraid of looking unpopular, perhaps we should all think of Greta Thunberg, who stands up for what she believes in.
February 18, 2019
These cold winter days, I am reminded of why I decided to write The Oyster Thief in the first place. It was the winter of 2015, and I wanted a winter escape. I dreamt of a vast beautiful underwater world. I didn’t quite know how to reach it, so I decided to create it myself.
The world I envisioned brimmed with not only brightly colored fish and algae, but also merpeople. In my imagination, merpeople lived deep below the waves. They lived in rounded homes made of stone, which looked like swellings rising off the seabed. Merpeople lived among coral reefs and gardens of algae. (Given that the majority of algae are red, their gardens were more red in color than green.)
In my imagination, merpeople used sea-shells as currency (as some human tribes have in the past, hence the expression “shelling out money”). Their lives were similar to human lives in some respects—for instance, they danced and they ate dessert—but their lives were also different—for instance, their dances had names like the Seahorse Sprance and the Undulating Jellyfish, and a popular dessert for them was devil’s apron, a kind of sugar kelp.
If you’d like to behold the world of merpeople, you can do so in this 4-minute video for which I wrote the script based on The Oyster Thief. More than a million people have watched it.
If you’d like to be in the world of merpeople, you can do so by reading this BRAND-NEW excerpt from The Oyster Thief, never before shared outside of the book. If you’ve read The Oyster Thief, you know that almost all of the story is depicted from the perspective of the two protagonists, mermaid Coralline and human Izar. But one of my favorite scenes in the story is from the perspective of Coralline’s fiancé, Ecklon, a handsome and brilliant detective. Below, he investigates the murder of a merman named Tang—a murder in which Coralline is the principal suspect.
EXCERPT: ECKLON’S INVESTIGATION
Ecklon often knew how difficult a murder case would be as soon as he swam through the door of the murder scene. This would be a difficult case, he recognized, as he swam through the door of Tang Tarpon’s home.
His gaze roved over the half-dozen empty decanters of wine forming a semicircle on the floor. His attention then shifted to Tang’s bookshelf. Ecklon had read two of Tang’s murder mysteries, The Vanished Whelk and The Under-Minister’s Assassination, and he’d liked them, finding them to be full of uncanny surprises and unexpected twists.
Tang’s body was no longer in the living room—it was being examined by the Forensics Department of the Under-Ministry of Crime and Murder—but the smell of his blood lingered. The murder-mystery writer had, ironically, become the subject of his own real-life murder mystery.
Most people wanted to have an interesting life, but Ecklon also wanted to have an interesting death—a death of the sort for which a detective like himself would be required. He wondered whether Tang had felt similarly; probably not.
Ecklon slipped away from the bookshelf and looked about the small, shabby living room. His gaze dropped to the murder weapon on the floor, a dagger with a serpent-encrusted hilt. He collected the dagger, ran his hand over its hilt. He had a passion for daggers, as did many at the Detective Department of the Under-Ministry of Crime and Murder. He was attentive to the style of dagger carving, just as mermaids were attentive to the style of their bodices; he evaluated dagger blades on the basis of their shine and sharpness, just as mermaids evaluated fabrics on the basics of their sheen and softness. The merman who’d owned this serpent-encrusted dagger seemed to have a passion for daggers as well.
Ecklon would begin his murder investigation by interviewing dagger carvers in an attempt to learn the identity of the owner of this dagger. Dagger carvers were often ancient mermen, for dagger carving was an art that was becoming lost over time—a shame, in Ecklon’s opinion. The elderly age of dagger carvers meant two things: Their memories were often weak, and they may have sold a dagger decades ago, making recollection of the purchaser difficult. But Ecklon would have to try nonetheless. Once he had an identity, it wouldn’t take long to find a motive, he knew from experience. Placing the serpent-encrusted dagger carefully in his satchel, he extracted his own dagger.
His dagger had been designed by the most elderly dagger carver in Urchin Grove, an eighty-five-year-old merman with arthritic hands, and it featured an eagle ray wing across the hilt, because Ecklon’s muse Menziesii was an eagle ray. He had not told Coralline, but, soon after their wedding, Ecklon planned to return to the same dagger carver and have a new dagger designed for himself, one encrusted with the precious olive-green gemstone peridot in the branching shape of coralline algae. That way, Ecklon would think of Coralline every time he wielded his dagger—and he would wield it always to protect her, to protect them.
He remembered the day he’d tried to teach her how to wield a dagger. After some half-hearted flicking of her wrist, she had handed his dagger back to him. He had put his dagger away patiently, deciding to try to teach her again after they were married. He carried a dagger and a pair of handcuffs in his satchel at all times, to defend and to intercept, respectively; it was imperative to him that his wife know how to wield the former and stay out of the latter.
January 28, 2019
I am excited about the journey 2019 has to offer for The Oyster Thief and the oceans.
Good news! More than three-quarters of marine mammal and sea turtle populations have significantly increased after their species were listed in the U.S. Endangered Species Act, according to a study released this month.
On the other hand, the oceans are getting louder, according to a New York Times article. Increasing ship traffic and seismic exploration for offshore drilling are disrupting the lives and chatter of sea creatures large and small, from whales to zooplankton. (Imagine that there was construction happening outside your window every day, so loud that you couldn’t hear the person sitting next to you.)
Though the din in the oceans is greater, steps are being taken to reduce plastic pollution. On January 1st, Washington D.C. began a ban on single-use plastic straws in restaurants and other service businesses, becoming the first major U.S. city to do so.
The question is: Are straws just straws, or are they more? I believe they’re more. The conversation around straws is part of the broader conversation around the use of plastic and moving toward more sustainable alternatives. Most straws end up in landfills, but others contribute to the 8 million tons of plastic that enter the oceans every year. You can watch an illuminating three-minute video on plastic straws here, narrated by actor Adrian Grenier.
“In The Oyster Thief, Faruqi creates a full-fledged, highly believable merworld using beautiful imagery and demonstrating a deep understanding of ocean conservation and marine life.”
“The Oyster Thief is a fascinating novel that blends mermaid lore with social commentary on how we treat the environment.”
“The Oyster Thief is a captivating blend of fantasy and environmental activism—and it is more than that. It is the first novel to feature an underwater civilization alongside themes of ocean conservation.”
—Green Living Guy
I received a kind note from a reader Jenny, who wrote: I am an avid reader therefore I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed The Oyster Thief. It was spellbinding to say the least. A beautiful love story about our oceans….I couldn’t put it down! I think it would make a wonderful film for both youth and adults. I will also check out Project Animal Farm.”
Want to test the waters? Dive into the first chapter of The Oyster Thief here!
I enjoyed speaking on the Get Lit podcast about The Oyster Thief and the writing process. You can listen here!
The results are in! There were several great answers to the “What would you most like about being a merperson?” contest announced in the December newsletter, but there can only be one winner! Congratulations Asha! Asha answered: “What I would most like about being a mermaid is that I would have deeper insights into ocean life and underwater creatures.”