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
"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)
I was reluctant to get this book because of the terrible reviews here, but I love Sue Monk Kidd's nonfiction, so I gave it a shot anyway, and I have to wonder if the people writing the reviews actually read the book. Teri claims that the characters are without motivation, and neither the author nor the reader knows, for example, why the mother cut off her finger. Well, Teri must have been snoozing, because it was actually covered in detail. Or perhaps it passed her notice because it was SHOWN rather than TOLD. And as for the motivation of the other characters -- again, you have to be snoozing to miss that. The husband even supplies a Jungian analysis of it at one point.
Not to say that this is a perfectly wonderful book. I didn't like the narrator. She had an "old" voice, which I didn't think was necessary. And she suffered from that problem so many narrators suffer from, which is emphasizing the wrong words in the sentences. "We both feel it THEN" rather than "we BOTH feel it then." There were these odd musical interludes thrown in here and there which were unpleasant. And as far as the story goes, I think I was most put off by the middle aged woman's declarations that she was "falling in love with" a man she'd only seen a time or two. Come on, by the time you are middle aged you really should recognize the difference between attraction and love. That was kind of silly.
Sue Monk Kidd is an excellent writer, though. Her prose often borders on poetry, although that is far more obvious when the narration can evoke its charm (the narrator of The Secret Life of Bees was absolutely enchanting and brought the best out of Kidd's writing). It won't win an award, I don't think, but it wasn't as bad as many of these reviews make out.
Beautifully written! Sue Monk Kidd swept me away to Egret Island. I was right there, her descriptions of island life and the colorful people were so vivid. And what more could we ask for - a middle-aged woman dealing with a stagnant marriage, a questionably sane mother (and her rather offbeat but always entertaining friends), the mystery of her father's death many years ago, her wonderful relationship with her college-age daughter, and her steamy affair with a man who should be off-limits. Wow! Kidd's probing of all the things that make us tick - and make us human - is truly masterful. A very worthwhile read!
This is a beautiful book, but if you crave a fast-paced narrative, this book is not for you. However, if you liked "The Secret Life of Bees," you will not be disappointed. Similar in its Catholic iconography, "The Mermaid Chair" raises questions of faith, love, and god. My bookclub enjoyed reading and dicussing the book while we ate three different shrimp dishes.
I enjoyed this! The pace is relaxed--there are a lot of flashbacks--but it's appropriate for the story. I suspect the reviewers who were bored were younger than 40. When you send your last child off to college and start wondering who you are, this is the perfect book to read. I became totally engrossed in the narrator's family relationships, sense of place, and forbidden romance.
But sure wants to be. If you want a wonderful book about the southern coast and southern culture, listen to anything by Pat Conroy. (In this book the main character says, "I'm not Pat Conroy, you know") This is a common novel with empty people and a plot that tried too hard. Very disappointing.
One reviewer described the main character as being full of ennui. Well--that's what a mid-life crisis is. You arrive at the point where the kids are out on their own and you're at a loss for who you are and what you want. You start looking at yourself *in relation to* other people that you come across. You wonder if some of them might help you forge a different definition of yourself. Ms. Kidd relayed that deftly in a story that has no "right" ending. The words are well-chosen, the emotions are right in line with what those us in mid-life (especially those with trauma in their lives) are facing. Well-told and interesting, beautifully written.
I almost stopped listening to this book midway through, but I stayed with it. I found it worth the time, with a nice message at the end. Not important or classic, but an good read (or listen).
I really enjoyed this book. It was rather strange, but it left me with tears in my eyes at the end. If a book can make me cry--it has to be good!
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