BookBrowse Reviews The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

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The Mermaid Chair

A Novel

by Sue Monk Kidd

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2005, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2006, 368 pages

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'Full of sultry, magical descriptions of life in the South, is sure to be another hit for Kidd.' Novel

From the book jacket: In her much-anticipated new novel, Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) 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.

Inside the abbey of a Benedictine monastery on tiny Egret Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, resides a beautiful and mysterious chair ornately carved with mermaids and dedicated to a saint who, legend claims, was a mermaid before her conversion. Jessie Sullivan's conventional life has been "molded to the smallest space possible." So when she is called home to cope with her mother's startling and enigmatic act of violence, Jessie finds herself relieved to be apart from her husband, Hugh. Jessie loves Hugh, but on Egret Island—amid the gorgeous marshlands and tidal creeks—she becomes drawn to Brother Thomas, a monk who is mere months from taking his final vows. What transpires will unlock the roots of her mother's tormented past, but most of all, as Jessie grapples with the tension of desire and the struggle to deny it, she will find a freedom that feels overwhelmingly right. 

Comment: The Mermaid Chair is the sort of book that I would rather not admit to having enjoyed because I like to think of myself still as 21 years old, but the reality is that soul searching mid-life crisis novels such as this hold a certain appeal to me these days! If you find yourself reflecting on your life and the possibility of one last wild fling, hurry out and buy yourself a copy of The Mermaid Chair - because such things are usually much better in the hands of a novelist than in reality!

'Whit's crisis of faith; and Nelle's tormented reckoning with the past will resonate with many readers. This emotionally rich novel, full of sultry, magical descriptions of life in the South, is sure to be another hit for Kidd.' -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

'Bestselling Kidd has a gift for language, but the saccharine aftertaste won't go away.' -- Kirkus Reviews

Sue Monk Kidd says that the idea for The Mermaid Chair began one day when a friend mentioned that she'd seen a 'mermaid chair' in a small English church - it had been there for centuries but nobody knew why.  Sue says she was riveted and knew right then and there that she would write a novel called The Mermaid Chair, but that she didn't have a clue what it would be about!

I believe that the chair her friend would have seen is located in a small church in the village of Zennor, Cornwall, England.  This is a side view of the bench seat which is about big enough to seat two people.

This review was originally published in April 2005, and has been updated for the March 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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