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The Mermaid Chair | [Sue Monk Kidd]

The Mermaid Chair

Sue Monk Kidd's stunning debut, The Secret Life of Bees, has transformed her into a genuine literary star. Now, in her much-anticipated new novel, Kidd has woven a transcendent tale that will thrill her legion of fans and cement her reputation as one of the most remarkable writers at work today.
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Publisher's Summary

Sue Monk Kidd's stunning debut, The Secret Life of Bees, became a best-selling phenomenon and a modern classic. Now, in her luminous new novel, Kidd has woven a tale that will cement her reputation as one of the most remarkable writers at work today.

Inside the church of a Benedictine monastery on tiny Egret Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, resides a mysterious chair carved with mermaids and dedicated to a saint who, legend claims, was a mermaid before her conversion.

When Jessie is summoned home to the island to cope with her mother's inexplicable act of violence, she is living with her husband, Hugh. Jessie loves Hugh, but she finds herself drawn to Brother Thomas, a monk who is soon to take his final vows.

Is the power of the mermaid chair only a myth? Or will it alter the course of Jessie's life? What transpires will unlock the roots of her mother's tormented past and it will allow Jessie to make a marriage unto herself.

The Mermaid Chair is a vividly imagined novel about the passions of the spirit and the ecstasies of the body. It illuminates the awakening of a woman to her own deepest self with a brilliance and power that only a writer of Kidd's ability could conjure.

©2005 Sue Monk Kidd; (P)2005 Penguin Audio

What the Critics Say

"Kidd's second offering is just as gracefully written as her first and possesses an equally compelling story." (Kirkus Reviews)
"This emotionally rich novel, full of sultry, magical descriptions of life in the South, is sure to be another hit for Kidd." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.4 (470 )
5 star
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3.7 (134 )
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4.0 (127 )
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3 star
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Reid Cary, NC, USA 04-15-05
    Reid Cary, NC, USA 04-15-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
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    "Such a disappointment"

    This is a predictable tale with unsympathetic, shallow characters and stories of human struggles that have been told better by other authors. There are moments of psychological insight, artistic creativity, and descriptions of natural beauty in the Low Country to be savored but which don't add momentum to the plodding plot. The feminist spiritual message is welcome but not as eloquently or subtly presented as in Secret Life of Bees. I see an exciting parallel between Dan Brown's "heretical" resurrection of female divinity from 2000 years of suppression and Kidd's female trinity. But I have to admit I burned out on the book by the end of Part I and never burned CDs for Part II.

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jill Blassingame Tulsa, OK 04-24-05
    Jill Blassingame Tulsa, OK 04-24-05 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    24
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    "Let Down"

    I was very disappointed with the Mermaid Chair. I was looking forward to this book because I loved the Secret Life of Bees. Mermaid Chair was nothing more than a romance novel with a little more intellect than usual. I made myself finish it but it probably wasn't worth it.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth 04-14-05
    Elizabeth 04-14-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    205
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    41
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    "Nothing Like"

    I was really looking forward to this book after having enjoyed "The Secret Life of Bees." That's why I gave "The Mermaid Chair" more than the benefit of the doubt, forcing myself to slog through chapter after chapter of leaden, meaningless scenes and dialogue featuring a bizarre old woman who cuts off her finger and a cast of other characters devoid of personality. I must admit that I finally quit listening, so I don't really know if the book picked up steam at the end. Janet Maslin of The New York Times didn't seem to think so in her recent review of this book. I just wish I'd read her review before buying it.

    24 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Q. Cassetti 04-29-05
    Q. Cassetti 04-29-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    "urg!"

    I thought I was in for something thought provoking--filled with imagery that would inspire me. What was presented was a slow-paced book of a boringly pathetic woman finally waking up to have a point of view and personality. Dreadful! And combine that with the finer points of a bodice-ripper and you end up with a waste of time. The narrator was insipid.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Cherryville, NC, USA 07-04-07
    Carol Cherryville, NC, USA 07-04-07 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    4
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    "Romance Novel"

    Too much of a romance novel...story line was ok, I was not expecting a romance novel. One could tell by how the reader pronounced words that she was not familiar with this part of the country. Not much depth to the story.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 12-30-06
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 12-30-06 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    599
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    "Frankly, A Dissappointment"

    I am a fan of Sue Monk Kidd but this book dissappointed me. The female character is a bored housewife who finds a distraction in an unexpected setting. And that distraction happened to be a man who was as much running away from his life as she was.

    Mixed in is a crazy mother who is trying to cast out her own demons. Maybe I am too dense to have connected everything, because I couldn't.

    The Secret Life of Bees dissappointed me as well, but this book did so even more.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C Coos Bay, OR, USA 09-20-05
    C Coos Bay, OR, USA 09-20-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "Obnoxious main character and annoying reader...."

    I have never read any of Kidd's other works, but I have been aware of her. When I saw the title The Mermaid Chair, I was intrigued. The plot synopsis sounded promising, so I decided to take a chance...Now I wish I had my book credit back!

    The main character is positively drowning in ennui. There isn't much I dislike more than a person with position, privelege, and love who is too self-absorbed to embrace their fortune and live beautifully. Listen to the audio clip, read an excerpt on amazon.com before you use your credit on this narcissistic tale.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara Kensington, CT, USA 08-27-05
    Barbara Kensington, CT, USA 08-27-05 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    51
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    "Deep dissapointment in"

    I have rarely been as disappointed in a book as I was in "The Mermaid Chair." I had loved the luminous "The Secret Life of Bees," with its strong, sympathetic characters. "The Mermaid Chair," however, is about a self-absorbed, shallow individual whose solution to an uninspiring life is to have an affair with a monk--this despite having a loving, caring husband and a life that could have provided her with any number of avenues to fulfillment. I wanted to shake her and say, "Good grief, woman! Get a job! Volunteer somewhere! Take some art classes to further your talent or some other sort of enrichment!" Although the descriptions of the island were lush and poetic, there came a point where I'd had enough with hearing about marsh grass and birds and wanted to see the story progress. The book reminded me of the a short stories that appear on the back pages of women's magazines.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terri Long Branch, NJ, USA 05-26-05
    Terri Long Branch, NJ, USA 05-26-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
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    "An Experience of Emptiness"

    Nomatter what reviewers will say, this book will unfortunately be a major pick in Book Clubs across the nation. Libraries and livingrooms will fill with people wanting to read and discuss Ms Kidd's latest. (Which is why I chose to listen to, not read it.) Oh, what a mistake the American reading public will make. Heaven knows what anyone in a book club will discuss. An empty headed book. All invention and little real substance.

    Didn't anyone explain to the author that a good writer doesn't TELL but SHOWS? We should be feeling what the main character feels, not being told in a half sentence what she feels. Any sensible person would wonder why the main character does anything she does. There is simply NO motivation, except given in hindsight.

    Of course she can't make sense out of the incident of her mother's finger. The answer's simple. The author can't make sense out of it herself. She came up with a half-way interesting concept but just couldn't pull it off. How could any woman be stupid enough to suddenly have the feelings and make the decisions she makes. I guess it would work if you were 19. The main character's a bigger basket case than her mother, and the author hasn't a clue why.

    This reads like a budding student's second draft at a Writer's Program at a mediocre university. The editors no doubt did 100's hours of work to streamline the writing hoping to get another "Secret Life of Bees" to press.

    This audiobook was a complete waste of a precious Audible book credit. And a waste of my listening time. (This is the very first time I've listened to a book at my iPod's fastest speed.) Goodness knows why I thought I'd get my Audible dollar's worth if I just forced myself to listen to every last word. Cardboard character after cardboard character. Each has a role: to advance the story, NOT to be a vital person him/herself.

    Narrator: She tries hard, but she is not consistent in her characterizations. Quite the challenge in a muddled book.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Louis Guilford, CT, United States 04-11-05
    Louis Guilford, CT, United States 04-11-05 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    31
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    "THE MER"

    Having just finished Sue Monk Kidd?s, THE MERMAID CHAIR, I find the need to voice my feelings about this profoundly wise, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable book. Ms Kidd has again created a vivid world of ordinary characters whose emotions contain the complex, extraordinary meaning of our daily lives. Her prose permits the reader to divine the very soul of her characters.

    Ms Kidd?s is a special gift I hope she will share with her readers again soon.

    31 of 37 people found this review helpful
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