Fans of Sue Monk Kidd's best-selling debut novel, <i>The Secret Life of Bees</i>, will be equally enamored with her beguiling sophomore effort, <b>The Mermaid Chair</b>, wh
The Mermaid Chair is the second novel by Sue Monk Kidd. Set on the South Carolina barrier island of Egret, it describes three intense months that change the life of 42-year-old Jessie Sullivan when she returns to her childhood home. Believing she is dealing with a psychiatric emergency with her mother, she finds herself confronted by doubts about her 20-year-old marriage to Hugh when she falls in love with a monk from the island’s monastery; simultaneously, her mother’s behaviour unearths the deeply buried events of her father’s death 33 years previous. The plot is well crafted, the prose is beautiful and the characters are interesting, some are really funny, but I found Jessie rather difficult to like: she struck me as rather selfish and self-indulgent, although perhaps some more detailed earlier description of her relationship with Hugh would have helped understand her actions. Kidd’s descriptions are wonderful, though, very evocative of the South Carolina coastal landscape, and she has obviously researched marine flora and fauna, especially sea birds, as well as tidal marshes, estuaries and creeks, Gullah culture, dementia, Inuit legends, mermaid fables and folklore of the saints. The twist at the end saved it for me. A memorable read.