Monday, September 27, 2010

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 1st PAPERBACK edition (March 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143036696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143036692

Sue Monk Kidd writes of the abbey of a Benedictine monastery on Egret Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, which houses 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 mother’s unexplained act of violence, 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 who is soon to take his final vows.

Amid a community of unforgettable island women and the exotic beauty of marshlands, tidal creeks and egrets, Jessie struggles with a freedom that feels overwhelmingly right and her responsibility to her home and marriage.  What transpires will reveal her mother’s tormented past, but most of all, allow Jessie to come to terms with her past.

I think any woman who has been married for a long time and feels as if she is defined only as someone's wife and mother can relate to Jessie's struggle.  A woman often gets lost in her life, ceasing to be anyone other than the person who exists to do for others.  Unfortunately Jessie's way of dealing with her feelings is to commit adultery.  But more than being about adultery, this book explores how family secrets create fear and guilt and can alter a person's life and and the lives of those close to them.

Kidd's characters were well-developed and interesting, but the most descriptive passages were about Egret Island itself.  It made me wish the island was real and that I could go there.

No comments: