Shirley in New Orleans, April 28, 2011 (view all comments by Shirley in New Orleans)
Sue Monk Kidd does have a way with words, but the plotting of this novel goes badly awry in its center half. Another reviewer used the word "sacharine" to describe it, a substance known for its lingering and unpleasant aftertaste. This novel has that, but also an unpleasant "taste" after a pleasant start. I will allow that the end is rather thoughtful. Altogether though, it is not worth the time.
gracebarron, October 19, 2009 (view all comments by gracebarron)
I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the interwoven nature of the narrative. Switching perspectives works beautifully here, some chapters in first person, others in close third. The characters are richly drawn and their chapters distinct without being discordant, allowing the plot to unfold with a natural ease.
And the threads that make up the plot share that interwoven quality; internal conflict and external conflict, life at home and life on the island, love with a husband and love with a lover, the past and the present all blend together as they influence each other. And as well as everything was knit together, there were still surprises to be found as Jessie learns more about herself, her family, and where she fits in the world.
That's not to say that the book is without fault. There are some things that could be explored more deeply or cut altogether, some things that aren't wholly realistic, and some things that are tied up just a bit too neatly. But none of those problems bothered me so much that I wasn't able to enjoy the book.
Madam Pince, September 21, 2008 (view all comments by Madam Pince)
Everybody and their book group loves Sue Monk Kidd, but her allure eludes me. I was so bored by this novel I didn't even make it a quarter of the way through. Elizabeth Berg or Kaye Gibbons covers this territory in much finer fashion.
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gardenheaven, July 19, 2008 (view all comments by gardenheaven)
A wondrous tale of relationships. Kidd delighted me with her character development and the deep search for self that takes place when reading. Wholeheartedly enjoyed this! Was an easy read, yet stimulating!
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"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.)
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Bestselling Kidd has a gift for language, but the saccharine aftertaste won't go away."
"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."
by Boston Globe,
"Readers who admired The Secret Life of Bees will likely find pleasure in Kidd's new combination of legend, personal history, spirituality, and humanity in quest of its own significance."
by Denver Post,
"Kidd is a writer who could make a shopping list sound fun. Her imagination, originality and command of language never cease. She is simply a profound storyteller."
by Portland Oregonian,
"Those who fell in love with Kidd's first novel will find pleasure here."
by Orlando Sentinel,
" Although the pacing of The Mermaid Chair at times seems plodding...she slowly and carefully unveils her story about the meaning of love, the necessity of risk, and the power of forgiveness."
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.
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.
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