I bought this book for two reasons: 1) I loved Sue Monk Kidd's novel "The Secret Life of Bees" and couldn't wait to read what else she had written and 2) because ever since I was a little girl I've had a love affair with anything mermaid related.
I have to say, I was sorely disappointed, not only did I feel that the book did not match up to the great writing from her previous work, I felt the story itself was awful. I had no patience or interest with the main character and found her to be annoying and irritating. Instead of finding a great story about a woman finding herself I felt it was about a weak woman making all the wrong choices and not caring about anyone or anything in her path. Definitely not the kind of woman I would want to be friends with.
I also expected more history in relation to the Mermaid Chair that gives the novel it's name. All in all, I thought it was a weak attempt at matching "The Secret Life of Bees". If you want to read a good book, save your time, and pick up "The Secret Life of Bees" instead.
I had difficulty getting drawn into this story because the author does little to explain the characters' motivations for their actions, which are seemingly inexplicable until the end of the book. The main character, who is married to a good man and has a daughter, falls for another man who is a monk at the church where her mother works. By the time the author gives insight into the cause of her adulterous feelings, one has already begun to dislike the main character. The mother's violent acts of self-mutilation are incomprehensible since the author keeps the cause of her pain a secret until the end of the book. Even the father's mysterious death is not explained until the last few chapters. This book was frustrating because the author does not disclose anything to make you care about these characters until the final moments of the story.
This book was "OK" and admittedly had a lot to live up to after "The Secret Life of Bees". It took me a long time to read through this book because I just wasn't that interested in it. Around the middle, I speed up and finished it and it was allright. Certainly not the best book I've read, but adequate I guess.
Sue Monk Kidd's The Mermaid Chair is the soulful tale of Jessie Sullivan, a middle-aged woman whose stifled dreams and desires take shape during an extended stay on Egret Island, where she is caring for her troubled mother, Nelle. Like Kidd's stunning debut novel, The Secret Life of Bees, her highly anticipated follow up evokes the same magical sense of whimsy and poignancy.
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.
This was a disappointment after her first book, The Secret Life of Bees, which I loved.