The Mermaid Chair

The Mermaid Chair: A Novel

Sue Monk Kidd

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Last year, when I read The Secret Life of Bees, I fell in love with it. In that book, Sue Monk Kidd’s words had a rhythm of their own, reminiscent of a sultry summer day, and the slow blossoming of a girl into womanhood.

This year’s offering, The Mermaid Chair, is a vastly different novel, told in a totally different tone, but there’s a similar vividness in Kidd’s scene-setting. Her fictional Outer Banks island is so real I could smell the salt air, and feel the sand under my feet. Her characters are distinctive – the daughter who is having a mid-life crisis, the mother who is still mouring her long-dead husband, and doing a personal penance by cutting off and burying her own fingers, the young novice monk who finds God in the island’s bird rookery…all are fundamentally gentle characters, with streaks of quiet ferocity…and all are intertwined.

To describe the plot would be to ruin it. There is romance and pain, enduring friendship, and the strained relationship that often occurs between grown women and their mothers.

If you read The Secret Life of Bees, and liked it, than read The Mermaid Chair. Actually, read it even if you haven’t read the other.



Allen Drury

When I was in high school, I read everything Allen Drury had ever written up to 1984, most of which were novels set in and around the Nixon presidency, Watergate, all of that. Drury tells good stories, and his original characters were fresh and interesting, as well as being multi-dimensional.

So, when I found Pentagon at a used bookstore several months ago, I thought, “Oh, great, something of his I haven’t read!” And I saved it until this month, knowing it was there, but wanting to savor it.

There is nothing worse than when you pick up a novel by a favorite author, and hate it. And I hated Pentagon. The ususal Drury-esque attention to detail was there – if you want to know every last detail about what it was like to work at the Pentagon in the early eighties, this book is for you – but if you want a plot, well, half way through the book I could have drawn a map of the building, but I still had no idea where the plot was.

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