The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
A Novel

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Synopsis

The New York Times–bestselling second novel by the author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings (Viking, January 2014)

Inside the church of a Benedictine monastery on Egret Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, resides 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 seemingly inexplicable behavior, 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 about to take his final vows. Amid a rich community of unforgettable island women and the exotic beauty of marshlands, tidal creeks, and majestic egrets, Jessie grapples with the tension of desire and the struggle to deny it, with a freedom that feels overwhelmingly right and the immutable force of home and marriage.

Is the power of the mermaid chair only a myth? Or will it alter the course of Jessie’s life? What happens will unlock the roots of her mother’s tormented past, but most of all, it will allow Jessie to comes discover selfhood and a place of belonging as she explores the thin line between the spiritual and the erotic.
 

About Sue Monk Kidd

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SUE MONK KIDD is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels, The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair, and the memoirs Traveling with Pomegranates, which she wrote with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, When the Heart Waits, as well as Firstlight, a collection of her early writings. The Secret Life of Bees has spent more than 125 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was adapted into an award-winning movie starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys. The Mermaid Chair, a #1 New York Times bestseller, was adapted into a television movie. Both of her novels have been translated into more than 24 languages. The recipient of numerous literary awards, Sue lives with her husband on an island off the coast of Florida.
 
Published March 7, 2006 by Penguin Books. 368 pages
Genres: Religion & Spirituality, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Romance, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Unrated Critic Reviews for The Mermaid Chair

Kirkus Reviews

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No pure lust, but a spiritual coupling has taken place as evidenced, at least, by the pictures she creates of a mermaid diving deep toward the ocean floor, while there’s much talk of being “damned and saved both.” Jesse learns she isn’t to blame for her father’s death, but her relief is short-liv...

Feb 01 2005 | Read Full Review of The Mermaid Chair: A Novel

The New York Times

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Although the jacket of "The Mermaid Chair" is prettily illustrated with seashells, the story's most striking image is that of Jessie's bra landing on the ground next to Brother Thomas's crucifix.

Apr 11 2005 | Read Full Review of The Mermaid Chair: A Novel

Examiner

The most important images however in the film version of the book, The Mermaid Chair, and a concurrent literary theme, fire and water represent tragedy to her mother.

Mar 31 2012 | Read Full Review of The Mermaid Chair: A Novel

Examiner

When her estranged mother intentionally hurts herself, Jessie must return to the island where she grew up, an island full of painful memories and heartbreaking secrets.

Jun 29 2010 | Read Full Review of The Mermaid Chair: A Novel

Book Reporter

Forty-two-year-old Jessie Sullivan, devoted wife and mother, has lived her life "molded to the smallest space possible, my days the size of little beads that passed without passion through my fingers."

Jan 07 2011 | Read Full Review of The Mermaid Chair: A Novel

AV Club

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More than three decades later, Jessie is still living with the guilt when an old family friend calls her with grisly news: Tormented by her own inner demons, Jessie's mother Nelle has cut off her index finger with a carving knife.

May 03 2005 | Read Full Review of The Mermaid Chair: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

Try this for a batty and arresting first sentence: ''In the middle of my marriage, when I was above all Hugh's wife and Dee's mother, one of those unambiguous women with no desire to disturb the universe, I fell in love with a Benedictine monk.'' Alas, it's all downhill from there in Sue Monk...

Mar 28 2005 | Read Full Review of The Mermaid Chair: A Novel

USA Today

But perhaps the answer ultimately given by The Mermaid Chair is that a storyteller also can change course and come of age in the middle of her life.

Apr 14 2005 | Read Full Review of The Mermaid Chair: A Novel

About.com

The novel explores the relationships between Jessie and her husband Hugh, Jessie and Brother Thomas, Jessie and her mother, and Jessie's search for something else.

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Bookmarks Magazine

But no one should kidd herself that she is reading literary fiction …" Mickey Pearlman Plain Dealer 1.5 of 5 Stars "At times, the plot clunks along so slowly that loyalty to Kidd for the two-hankie ending in [The Secret Life of Bees] seems the only reason to continue.

Jan 09 2008 | Read Full Review of The Mermaid Chair: A Novel

Story Circle Book Reviews

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd begins with this sentence: "In the middle of my marriage, when I was above all Hugh's wife and Dee's mother, one of those unambiguous women with no desire to disturb the universe, I fell in love with a Benedictine monk."

Apr 20 2005 | Read Full Review of The Mermaid Chair: A Novel

Spirituality & Practice

And it will speak most forcefully to those who love Chagall's Lovers in the Red Sky and don't know why.

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Variety

Kim Basinger and Alex Carter play a married woman and a monk attracted to each other when she comes home to help her mother in 'The Mermaid Chair.' Filmed in Canada by Randwell Distribution and Nomadic Pictures in association with Fox Television Studios for Lifetime Television.

Sep 07 2006 | Read Full Review of The Mermaid Chair: A Novel

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