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a memorable read
The Mermaid Chair is the second novel by Sue Monk Kidd. Set on the South Carolina barrier island of Egret, it describes three intense months that change the life of 42-year-old Jessie Sullivan when she returns to her childhood home. Believing she is dealing with a psychiatric emergency with her mother, she finds herself confronted by doubts about her 20-year-old marriage to Hugh when she falls in love with a monk from the island’s monastery; simultaneously, her mother’s behaviour unearths the deeply buried events of her father’s death 33 years previous. The plot is well crafted, the prose is beautiful and the characters are interesting, some are really funny, but I found Jessie rather difficult to like: she struck me as rather selfish and self-indulgent, although perhaps some more detailed earlier description of her relationship with Hugh would have helped understand her actions. Kidd’s descriptions are wonderful, though, very evocative of the South Carolina coastal landscape, and she has obviously researched marine flora and fauna, especially sea birds, as well as tidal marshes, estuaries and creeks, Gullah culture, dementia, Inuit legends, mermaid fables and folklore of the saints. The twist at the end saved it for me. A memorable read.
The Uncomfortable Mermaid Chair
This book came highly recommended by two women working in the book store where I bought it and, as I'm always looking for new authors to read, I took a chance. My money was not well spent.
Memory Keeper's Daughter
Usually Penguin is a reliable label, but I'm shocked that they published this book. I agree with the other reviewer who felt that it belonged with Harlequin. Those were my thoughts as I was reading some of the tedious descriptions of the sex between Jessie and Brother Thomas.
Good authors are able to convey a lot using few words. This author feels like she has to hit you over the head with her labored descriptions and then comes back to see if you're still breathing.
I have lived on the ocean my entire life but I'd be surprised if Kidd has ever visited an island. None of her descriptions rang true. Likewise the relationship of the women in the book. It all felt too contrived.
Another disappointment was the whole scene in the store where they get Jessie's mother to tell her story.
[This review has been edited to remove plot spoilers]
I loved reading this book. I though it rich in symbolism (the way photography was used to capture the past - his being so complex, yet Carolines's being so simple and authentic). Life can be complicated and I feel that the author did a great job or depicting things that are real in the world.
Sue Monk Kidd's Harlequin Romance
The Mermaid Chair reads like a Harlequin Romance, hack-kneed, predictable, trite. I would wager that Kidd was offered at least a two-book deal when she submitted the wonderful Secret Life of Bees but she really couldn't come up with any great ideas for the second. Or else this is an earlier effort which found no publisher(rightfully so) until she became a best-selling author. I have never been let down so hard in all my reading life, I must say. So much so that I will not take a chance on Kidd again. Too bad. The Secret Life of Bees is so good!
Be True to Yourself
Our book club enjoyed reading and discussing this book immensely. It touched each of us in one way or another. Our discussions centered around one of the many book's themes: that one must be true to themselves to be happy, to be loved and to love others.
Sue Monk Kidd is excellent at weaving a plot that draws you into the lives of her characters. You are immediately drawn into the lives of both the main character and her mother and friends.
Overall, I would (and have recommended) this book to my friends and to my book club; however, I did feel that in the end, this had a rather ordinary and predictable ending.