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The Mermaid Chair: A Novel Hardcover – April 5, 2005
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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
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
I suppose that just about any follow-up to a novel as successful as The Secret Life of Bees will sell itself, and editors know that. But they shouldn't assume that we readers will continue to buy anything at all that has Kidd's name on it. Those who have read both The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair now know that you can't judge a book by its cover -- or by its author.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I think this is a story of a woman at the beginning of middle age. She realizes how unfulfilled she is.
No happy ending here just a lot of self reflection. Read more
I enjoy the places & depth of emotion that Sue's writing takes the reader. Her works are creative & emotionally thought-provoking.Published 9 days ago by chesterbrewmeister
As Jaime rushes to untangle the confusing behavior of her mother, she's confronted with a setting that stirs a lot of unhealed pain concerning her father's death. Read morePublished 19 days ago by Joanne Reese
This book had to keep drawing me back. I found myself wanting to give Jessie a slap up the side of the head for risking her marriage. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kindle Customer
I was disappointed in this book - my second Kidd book. I thoroughly enjoyed the Invention of Wings and selected this one because of that book. However, this story dragged along. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mystery lover
Being like many others I had high hopes for this book after reading "The Secret Life of Bees", but I was wrong. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
I loved it! I read this years ago and have often thought about it!Published 1 month ago by Tennis girl