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The Mermaid Chair Paperback – March 7, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (March 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143036696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143036692
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (769 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Sue Monk Kidd's The Mermaid Chair is the soulful tale of Jessie Sullivan, a middle-aged woman whose stifled dreams and desires take shape during an extended stay on Egret Island, where she is caring for her troubled mother, Nelle. Like Kidd's stunning debut novel, The Secret Life of Bees, her highly anticipated follow up evokes the same magical sense of whimsy and poignancy.

While Kidd places an obvious importance on the role of mysticism and legend in this tale, including the mysterious mermaid's chair at the center of the island's history, the relationships between characters is what gives this novel its true weight. Once she returns to her childhood home, Jessie is forced to confront not only her relationship with her estranged mother, but her other emotional ties as well. After decades of marriage to Hugh, her practical yet conventional husband, Jessie starts to question whether she is craving an independence she never had the chance to experience. After she meets Brother Thomas, a handsome monk who has yet to take his final vows, Jessie is forced to decide whether passion can coexist with comfort, or if the two are mutually exclusive. As her soul begins to reawaken, Jessie must also confront the circumstances of her father's death, a tragedy that continues to haunt Jessie and Nelle over thirty years later.

By boldly tackling such major themes as love, betrayal, grief, and forgiveness, The Mermaid Chair forces readers to question whether moral issues can always be interpreted in black or white. It is this ability to so gracefully present multiple sides of a story that reinforces Kidd's reputation as a well-respected modern literary voice. --Gisele Toueg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Every aspect of this audiobook, from the enchanting music that marks the story's dramatic moments to the narrator's intimate delivery, draws listeners into Kidd's mystical world. Set on Egret Island, a fictional barrier island off the coast of South Carolina, the novel focuses on 42-year-old Jessie, a Southern housewife who embarks on a journey of self-discovery after learning that her mother, who's still distraught over her husband's death 33 years earlier, has cut off her own finger. Foss speaks with grace and tenderness, deftly capturing the myriad characters who enter Jessie's life, including her love interest, an introspective attorney turned monk who's about to take his finals vows. Perhaps the book's most important character, however, is the land itself, and Foss wisely gives as much weight to Kidd's detailed depictions of the island's lush flora and fauna as to the characters themselves, never rushing through the descriptions and always reading these passages with an appropriate note of reverence.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

This book was amazing and very well written!
Natalie Bradley
I was very disappointed with this book--it drags on too long and you really don't care about any of the characters.
I had a hard time finishing this book, I kept thinking, "it has to get better" but it never did.
S. Ziemer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

149 of 171 people found the following review helpful By Alexiel on August 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover's editorial review is so far off base it's stunning. It says "By boldly tackling such major themes as love, betrayal, grief, and forgiveness, The Mermaid Chair forces readers to question whether moral issues can always be interpreted in black or white." I say, what book doesn't "tackle" this issues? They're so universal, few books don't "tackle" them? To say nothing of boldness.

The only thing this book does boldly is advance a quasi-Ayn Rand like "philosophy" that essentially consists of the mantra "Selfishness is good." Well, let me rephrase that. This book toutes subordination to one's every whim and desire and unrepentant selfishness with no thought to external consequences and wraps it up shabbily as the politics of reawakening and philosophy.

If I could communicate one statement to the author, whose "Secret Life Of Bees" was an infinitely more charming book that did not groan under the weight of its preternaturally overburdened excesses and trite ambitions, it would be this: There are probably few protagonists less involving, sympathetic, and interesting than whiny, self-aggrandizing, navel-gazing narcissists.

Reading this review, you might think I don't like books like these. That's not true. Introspection and questioning the fundamentals of one's life as a means to genuine, meaningful, and edifying self-realization and self-actualization can often be a fascinating read. But not this. This is a book about an utterly vapid woman whose obsession with herself and her own thoughts and feelings leads her to some rather shallow and unconvincing experimentations done far better in much older books. You've met people like this. Nothing fascinates them more than themselves, and they're endlessly questioning the meaning of their thoughts, feelings, etc.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Julia Rose on June 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I read Secret Life of Bees when it first came out, and immediately deemed it as a moderen day classic and one of the best books that I have ever read. Therefore, I could hardly wait to begin The Mermaid Chair.

The novel begins with a promising start and Sue Monk Kidd's descriptions of the island and the ocean itself are absolutely breathtaking. One of her great strengths is her magical way with words and how she can make the reader feel as if you are walking on Egret Island.. This novel is also very rich with its religious symbology and metaphors, as well as some of the explorations of the feminine mystique.


One of the things that blew me away about "Bees" were the too-good-to-be-true characters. Lily was one of the most believable protagonists in years, while the three sisters were incredibly rich characters. However, in Mermaid the characters are sketches of themselves with no real meat. It seems as if Kidd intended these characters to be something more, but only drew them out in pencil.

I liked what I saw of Kat, as well as Benne. But couldn't Kidd have developed them? I would have been so much more attached if she had....

Even Jessie, as the narrator is depicted as shallow and insensitive. I would have loved to have heard more from Nelle instead of her being stereotyped as "the crazy woman". What was her perspective on thing?

As for the romance factor--don't get me wrong. I love romance, but it has to be classy and well done. There has to be a conncection of the characters falling in love, as well as not too much of the lovey-dovey factor. Tracy Chevallier does a very classy job of writing romance, if you want an example.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Cassie W. on July 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Many people, myself included, were blown away by THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, Sue Monk Kidd's first offering to the world of contemporary fiction. Many people, myself included, had high expectations when, four years later, Kidd released her second novel, THE MERMAID CHAIR. And what did we hopeful readers get? A disjointed and ridiculous storyline, a thoroughly unlikable heroine, and an overdone cliche that lasts for 352 pages.

THE MERMAID CHAIR tells the story of Jessie Sullivan, a forty-something artist who is bored with her blase life (sound familiar yet?). Her daughter is away at college; her husband, Hugh, a psychiatrist, is loving but busy. On Ash Wednesday of 1988, Jessie gets a call that changes her life forever: Her mother, a devout (almost fanatical) Catholic and a woman still grieving over the death of her husband more than thirty years ago, has cut off her finger with a carving knife, seemingly as penance for some long-ago sin. Jessie, grateful for an excuse to leave her husband, immediately agrees to go stay with her mother on Egret Island off the coast of South Carolina and care for her during her recovery. During the months she stays on the island, Jessie does the following: She falls in love and has an affair with Brother Thomas (a.k.a. Whit), an "almost monk" in the monastery on Egret Island. She reflects on her relationship with her father and learns some painful truths about the real cause of his death. She begins to appreciate the importance of female relationships. She learns more about the Mermaid Chair, a mystical chair at the monastery painted with mermaids and dotted with jewels, and about the myths that inspired its making. And, of course, she gets in touch with herself, discovers who she is, and finds new inspiration to begin painting again.
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More About the Author

Sue Monk Kidd's first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, spent more than one hundred weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has sold nearly six million copies, and was chosen as the 2004 BookSense Paperback Book of the Year and Good Morning America's "Read This!" Book Club pick. It was adapted into an award-winning movie in 2008. Her second novel, The Mermaid Chair, a #1 New York Times bestseller, won the 2005 Quill Book Award for Best General Fiction and was adapted into a television movie. Her novels have been published in more than thirty countries. She is also the author of several acclaimed memoirs and the recipient of many awards, including a Poets & Writers Award. She lives near Charleston, South Carolina.