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The Mermaid Chairby Sue Monk Kidd
Synopses & Reviews
The luminous new novel from the author of the phenomenal bestseller The Secret Life of Bees.
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.
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.
What inspires the yearning for a soul mate? Few writers have explored, as Kidd does, the lush, unknown region of the feminine soul where the thin line between the spiritual and the erotic exists. The Mermaid Chair is a vividly imagined novel about the passions of the spirit and the ecstasies of the body; one that illuminates a woman?s self-awakening with the brilliance and power that only a writer of Kidd?s ability could conjure.
"Jessie Sullivan, the protagonist of this rewarding second novel by the author of the bestselling Secret Life of Bees, is awakened by a shrilling phone late one night to horrifying news: her mother, who has never recovered from her husband Joe's death 33 years earlier, has chopped off her own finger with a cleaver. Frantic with worry, and apprehensive at the thought of returning to the small island where she grew up in the shadow of her beloved father's death and her mother's fanatical Catholicism, 42-year-old Jessie gets on the next plane, leaving behind her psychiatrist husband, Hugh, and college-age daughter, Dee. On tiny Egret Island, off the coast of South Carolina, Jessie tries to care for her mother, Nelle, who is not particularly eager to be taken care of. Jessie gets help from Nelle's best friends, feisty shopkeeper Kat and Hepzibah, a dignified chronicler of slave history. To complicate matters, Jessie finds herself strangely relieved to be free of a husband she loves — and wildly attracted to Brother Thomas, n Whit O'Conner, a junior monk at the island's secluded Benedictine monastery. Confusing as the present may be, the past is rearing its head, and Jessie, who has never understood why her mother is still distraught by Joe's death, begins to suspect that she's keeping a terrible secret. Writing from the perspective of conflicted, discontented Jessie, Kidd achieves a bold intensity and complexity that wasn't possible in The Secret Life of Bees, narrated by teenage Lily. Jessie's efforts to cope with marital stagnation; 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. Agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. 20-city author tour. (Apr. 5)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Bestselling Kidd has a gift for language, but the saccharine aftertaste won't go away." Kirkus Reviews
"Kidd's second offering is just as gracefully written as her first and possesses an equally compelling story. It should appeal to the many readers who made her first novel a hit with book clubs." Booklist
Kidd's stunning debut, The Secret Life of Bees, spent 77 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. 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.
From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a New York Times bestselling novel about two unforgettable American women.
Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.
Hetty Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimkes daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.
Kidds sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarahs eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each others destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and womens rights movements.
Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handfuls cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.
This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.
The New York Timesbestselling second novel by the author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings (Viking, January 2014)
Inside the church of a Benedictine monastery on 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.
When Jessie Sullivan is summoned home to the island to cope with her eccentric mothers seemingly inexplicable behavior, she is living a conventional life with her husband, Hugh, a life molded to the smallest space possible.” Jessie loves Hugh, but once on the island, she finds herself drawn to Brother Thomas, a monk about to take his final vows. Amid a rich community of unforgettable island women and the exotic beauty of marshlands, tidal creeks, and majestic egrets, Jessie grapples with the tension of desire and the struggle to deny it, with a freedom that feels overwhelmingly right and the immutable force of home and marriage.
Is the power of the mermaid chair only a myth? Or will it alter the course of Jessies life? What happens will unlock the roots of her mothers tormented past, but most of all, it will allow Jessie to comes discover selfhood and a place of belonging as she explores the thin line between the spiritual and the erotic.
About the Author
Sue Monk Kidd, author of the highly acclaimed memoirs The Dance of the Dissident Daughter and When the Heart Waits, has won a Poets & Writers award, a Katherine Anne Porter Award, and a Bread Loaf scholarship. Two of her short stories — including an excerpt from The Secret Life of Bees — were selected as notable stories in Best American Short Stories. The Secret Life of Bees was nominated for the prestigious Orange Prize for fiction in England.
The film rights for The Secret Life of Bees have been optioned by Lauren Shuler Donner, producer of You've Got Mail and other major films.
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