By Cindy Bilbao
When We Believed In Mermaids
When you grow up in a house perched on the edge of the Californian coast and the beach is your backyard, the waves coarse through your very soul; and it is like that for the two sisters in this story, so much so that “sleep only comes when they can hear the ocean at night.” Kit and Josie Bianci’s bond with the ocean and each other runs deep. As children, they imagined stories of pirates and mermaids, and when they got older, their matching fish scale tattoos would represent their happiest memories of childhood. But there were many more painful memories and one well kept secret with the power to crush them if revealed.
Kit’s deep loneliness has been a part of her life for years. It began as a result of the dysfunctional way her family lived. When a lost teenage boy her family took in died, Kit was devastated. Her sister died soon after that in a terrorist attack on a train, although it was odd that they never found her body. Now many years later, Kit sees someone in the background during a news report who looks exactly like her sister. She is startled and it becomes her mission to determine if she’s alive after all. Her journey brings her to New Zealand, where she may find far more than a long-lost sister if the demons from her and her sister’s past don’t destroy everything.
This is an expertly woven story of family, lost love, and sisterly bonds with a mystery at the heart of the story, which is revealed slowly and skillfully throughout, making it impossible to stop reading. O’Neal’s trademark lyrical style is lustrous and gripping. The setting of the story moves between the beaches of California and New Zealand with illuminating details of the coasts, bringing the reader directly into the story. This is a perfect beach read!
When We Left Cuba
If the tropical island of Cuba and its history interests you, this book’s a great choice for your next beach read.
Beatriz Perez flees Cuba to settle in Florida with her family during the Cuban Revolution and bitterly blames Castro for the demise of the family sugar empire. It’s the 1960s, and the turbulence between Cuba and America during this time creates an unlikely heroine who has a dream to reclaim her country.
In America, she becomes determined to help the CIA take down Castro’s regime. While embroiled in various espionage plots, she finds herself falling for a U.S. senator. Will she have to choose between winning back her beloved Cuba or the man she falls in love with? A real page-turner!
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine September/October 2020 issue.